by Dan Smith
As a lifelong car guy, it has been my pleasure to be involved with many major automotive events.
None was more gratifying than the 2003 centennial at Ormond Beach.
A large group of people had come together to stage a celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the very first race in this area.
The fantastic array of antique racecars that we put on the beach has been called by those in the know the most impressive assemblage in history. Around 10,000 spectators were on hand and everyone involved had a lot of fun. One of the highlights of that centennial was the dedication of the Birthplace of Speed Park on the dunes at the Granada Boulevard beach approach.
The City of Ormond Beach created a gorgeous little park complete with marble markers to commemorate the history that had taken place on the beach there. The city even commissioned monuments of the two cars that were involved in that first race. It was with great fanfare the replicas of the Winton Bullet and the Olds Pirate were unveiled. Several members of the Winton family were on hand, some coming down from Cleveland. The Olds family came from Lansing, Mich., and some traveled all the way from California.
It was truly a fitting event to mark 100 years of history that would forever brand our area as a center for motor sports and provide the world with the first automotive test track.
After the fun subsided, it soon became clear the two monument cars were not correctly built to withstand the harsh salt climate where they were displayed. The cars were removed from the park and repainted. There was some talk of finding a new home for them until I volunteered to wash and care for the cars in the park. Sadly, after about a year, it became clear I was losing the battle to mother nature. Once more the cars were removed from the park.
Early in 2009, The Motor Racing Heritage Association asked the city for permission to build a small replica of the Ormond Garage to house and protect the cars in the Birthplace of Speed Park. The city commission went along with our plans, but left the project entirely up to the association. In the years since, our club has struggled to find the funding and the expertise to do the building. Under the direction of acting treasurer and local historian Mrs. Suzanne Heddy, our task is now complete. Thanks to great support from the Root family and many others, we will dedicate the new Ormond Garage at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 28. That date is significant since it is the 110-year anniversary of the race between the Winton and Olds.
Aside from protecting the cars, the new garage will serve as a tribute to the original that was destroyed by fire on Jan.7, 1976. Through the years one of the most asked questions from visitors and locals is where is the Ormond Garage? The new "gasoline alley" will be the centerpiece of the park that now contains four marble monuments that commemorate various historical highlights of the beach.
In 2006, the Stanley Museum of Kingfield, Maine, placed a marker there to honor the great Stanley speed record of 1906 and the next year the Glenn Curtiss Museum did the same with a monument marking his great motorcycle record of 1907. Mr. Curtiss would have his first brush with fame on Ormond's beach, but would go on to become the father of the American Aviation industry.
As I said in the beginning of this piece, this is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of folks. The list of donors are too many to thank here but I do need to mention, aside from the Root Family, Historic Shed Co., KDK Concrete, Trent Electric, Daniel Johns engineering, Randy's Auto Body and the City of Ormond Beach, If you are a fan of local history, stop by and join us. Many city officials will be on hand as will Motor Racing Heritage Association president Ron Piasecki, Suzanne Heddy and yours truly. This long awaited day is bound to be a fun time.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." E-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.