Posts Tagged ‘Harlem River Speedway’

Taking a drive on the Harlem River Speedway

July 23, 2012

Where is the quaint, summery, country-like scene depicted in this postcard, stamped 1908? Harlem, of course.

“Recognizing the long-standing popularity of horse racing among New Yorkers, the city built a ‘Harlem River Speedway’ along the west bank of the Harlem River in Manhattan,” writes

“The 95-foot-wide dirt roadway stretched two and one-half miles from West 155th Street north to West 208th Street. Presaging the automobile parkways of the 20th century, the speedway was flanked by trees and pedestrian walkways. When it was not being used as a racetrack, the Harlem River Speedway was used as an exercise track.”

Built in 1898, it was opened to automobiles in 1919 and paved a few years later. By the 1940s, it was closed off and incorporated into the Robert Moses-backed Harlem River Drive.

The lovely bridge in the background is the High Bridge. Closed for 40 years, it’s currently being restored and is set to reopen next year.

Manhattan’s other Washington Bridge

July 6, 2009

It predates the George Washington Bridge by 43 years and has a simple beauty all its own.

Still, the tiny Washington Bridge—connecting 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights to University Avenue in the Bronx—is like a neglected kid brother to the enormous and iconic GWB.


This is the Washington Bridge circa 1907. The Harlem River looks like a country brook. The “Speedway” referred to in the postcard was the Harlem River Speedway, a three-mile road for racing horses and carriages. It eventually became today’s Harlem River Drive.

Here’s another view of the Speedway.

Harlem River Speed Racers

August 4, 2008

Horse and buggy racing was a popular pastime in late 19th century New York, and with this in mind, the city constructed the Harlem River Speedway, a 3-mile stretch of dirt road from 155th Street to Dyckman Street along the Harlem River.

Opened in 1898, it was a beautiful spot: the river on one side, rocky bluffs on the other, pedestrian lanes for spectators and walkers, and the gorgeous High Bridge in view.

Bicyclists were not permitted on the road back in the day, but that’s changed: The Speedway is now part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, the city’s spectacular walking and cycling path around the perimeters of Manhattan.

The message on this postcard is sweet: “My dear Mrs. B, how would you like to take a spin in your auto?”