Eligible for Designation as a
National Historic Landmark
Hialeah, Dade County, Florida
Hialeah Park - track and infield lake. National Historic
taken by Mary Turnipseed, 1985.
The Hialeah Park Racetrack is one of
the oldest existing recreational facilities in southern Florida.
Originally built to attract the rich and famous, Hialeah Park
has contributed to the popularization of South Florida as a
winter resort. The park includes a Renaissance Revival clubhouse,
associated buildings, and landscaped gardens of native flora
and fauna. Hialeah Park has become so famous for its flocks
of flamingos that it has been officially designated a sanctuary
for the American Flamingo by the Audubon Society.
The development of the racetrack is closely linked to the development
of the City of Hialeah. Developed as a speculative enterprise
in 1921 by James H. Bright, a cattleman from Missouri, and Glenn
H. Curtiss, an aviation pioneer, it included many amenities ignored
by other South Florida town developers. Bright and Curtiss donated
land for community use and helped to acquire land and building
funds for the construction of public buildings and facilities,
including a racetrack. The first greyhound parimutuel track in
America was opened here in February of 1922 by the Miami Kennel
Club. The track was developed by Owen P. Smith, the inventor of
the "Inanimate Hare Conveyor," the mechanical rabbit
device that allowed dog racing on a circular track.
Grandstand and clubhouse at Hialeah Park.
National Historic Landmarks photograph, taken by Mary
In 1924, Joseph M. Smoot, with the help
of Curtiss and Bright, established the Miami Jockey Club and
constructed a racetrack and grandstand adjacent to the greyhound
track. The Hialeah Racetrack that opened on January 15, 1925
consisted of a clubhouse, an administrative building, a paddock
area, and twenty-one stables. Near the track, a fronton for
the Spanish sport of jai-alai was constructed, the first in
the Miami area. An amusement park with a roller coaster and
a dance hall was also developed. Hialeah Park offered the most
complete recreational complex in South Florida at that time.
The Great Hurricane of September 1926 dealt the City of Hialeah
a staggering blow. The racetrack complex lost its roller coaster,
jai-alai fronton, and dog kennels. From that point on, the various
owners of the Hialeah Park Racetrack concentrated on horse racing.
Hialeah Park - walking rink and paddock area. National
Historic Landmarks photograph, taken by Mary Turnipseed,
The racetrack was purchased in 1930 by
Joseph E. Widener, who undertook a major renovation, hiring
architect Lester W. Geisler to design a master plan for the
sporting facility. This master plan included the replacement
of the wooden grandstand and clubhouse structures with concrete
and steel buildings on the existing foundations. Also included
in the master plan were the stables, paddock area, walking rink,
and the infield turf track, now the widest and oldest track
continuously used in the United States. Extensive landscaping
was undertaken, with hundreds of royal palms and coconut trees
planted, and a lake was created within the track infield and
populated with pink flamingos imported from Cuba. The opening
of the renovated Hialeah Racetrack on January 14, 1932 set its
tone for years to come. It was attended by the rich and notable
who rode special trains south from Palm Beach and debarked at
a station specially built by the Seaboard Airline Railway.
Hialeah Park is nationally significant
as the oldest and widest continuously operating turf horse racing
track in the United States. The association of famous jockeys,
such as Eddie Arcaro and Willie Schumacher, with the track enhances
its significance. Equally significant is Hialeah Park's role
in starting the careers of famous horses such as Citation and
Seattle Slew, that went on to success in the Kentucky Derby
and other classics. Hialeah Park hosts several nationally famous
races such as the Flamingo, Widener, and Turf Cup. The track
has been the major industry of the City of Hialeah since its
opening and has made Florida the capital of winter racing. The
reputation of the Hialeah Park Racetrack as the world's most
beautiful race course has helped South Florida to become known
as a desirable vacation spot. In this way, it has played a significant
role in the development of South Florida tourism and was a forerunner
of modern recreational complexes in South Florida.
Hialeah Park Racetrack was listed on
the National Register of Historic Places on March 2, 1979. On
January 12, 1988, the property was determined eligible for designation
as a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.