I am proud to announce the Ormond Garage replica in the Birthplace Of Speed Park now houses both of the city's monument cars and will open to the public 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30.
Randy Crabtree of Randy's Auto Body on U. S. 1 in Ormond Beach recently completed the restoration of the Winton Bullet and it is beautiful. Randy did that difficult job at his own expense.
You may recall that in 2003 the city ordered the Bullet and the Olds Pirate from a company in Washington state. Unfortunately, the two monuments representing the first auto race on the beach did not hold up well.
Our group The Motor Racing Heritage Association went to work to get the cars redone and the garage built to protect them. This past March, MRHA dedicated the garage replica as the centerpiece of the beautiful little park that also holds four granite racing monuments. The garage, cars and monuments commemorate some of the early history of racing on the beach that gives the city the right to its motto "The Birthplace Of Speed."
Since the new garage was built, the members of MRHA have welcomed a steady stream of visitors to its doors. Classes of school children, tourists and locals have all shown up to admire the park and the new garage and to learn about the significant history they represent.
Back in 1904, at the second of eight Ormond Winter Speed Carnivals, the star of the event was William K. Vanderbilt Jr. The wealthy grandson of the Commodore came with his new 90 horsepower Mercedes racer to attempt the world land speed record. With him came a large group of his friends who were mostly the offspring of the nation's industrialists. Many of them also brought racecars to the beach. When Vanderbilt did succeed in setting the world's record at 92.3 m.p.h. a huge celebration erupted at the Hotel Ormond.
When it was all over, many of the rich kids lingered and upon finally returning to their homes in the north told tales of warm winters and gorgeous beaches. Their parents paid attention and began buying property for homes along the Halifax River. Until then Florida was considered a most uncivilized place, unfit for people of culture. The visit by Vanderbilt and his friends transformed the entire state into a winter destination with Volusia County as its center.
Henry Flagler ordered the construction of the world's first racing garage on the property of his hotel so the millionaires and inventors would have a suitable place to house their cars. Eventually the Ormond Garage would be placed on The National Historic Register and would last until 1976 when it was destroyed by fire.
Now we have a small replica that recalls all of that great history all the while protecting the taxpayers' considerable investment in the monument racecars.
We at MRHA could not be more proud of our garage and in the fact it was built at no cost to the city. We would like to thank our contributors both locally and from across the nation for their interest in promoting local history. When you visit the garage, please take a moment to read the sign that lists our major benefactors and enjoy this great car weekend.
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." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.