Eps 7 “The Graw” – Havre de Grace’s Racetrack

Havre de Grace Race Track

In the feature photo, from the collection of the late Tony Simone – a local photographer, the famous racehorse, Citation, is being unloaded from a rail car. He was here to run the 1948 Chesapeake Trial at “The Graw” – Havre de Grace’s racetrack.

There was a railroad spur off the main line that went to the racetrack, allowing the wealthy to arrive in private cars and to bring horses to the track.

Note: George is chuckling as we begin “TAKE 2” of our video. Ellie had the wrong settings on her phone!!! That’s why he’s the ‘casual historian.’ Lots of humor – trial and error! What’s important is that George is sharing the stories and memorabilia he is receiving from folks who live or lived here. Do stop in and see these items for yourself. He always has a new story to share!

The racetrack was located off Old Post Road (Revolution St) on Old Bay Lane. The National Guard now uses that property.

Havre de Grace Race Track and Our Hospital

In order to operate a racetrack, there had to be a hospital nearby. Thanks to the plans to open “The Graw,” Havre de Grace opened Harford Memorial Hospital.

The Hospital of Harford County was founded by a group of civic-minded citizens who gathered together for the first time on March 15, 1911. The objective set forth by this group was:

“For the purpose of establishing, maintaining and conducting a hospital in the City of Havre de Grace for benevolent and charitable purposes, for the treatment of persons injured and afflicted with disease and sickness and that it was a voluntary association instituted solely for these objects and not with pecuniary gain.”

The hospital began receiving its first patients in January of 1912. The building was formerly owned by George A. Baker and stood on a property now incorporated into the present Harford Memorial Hospital. Then, with enthusiastic public support, the Havre de Grace Hospital opened its doors in 1918. A photograph of the “Old Havre de Grace Hospital” appears in the Directory. The building has all the features of a late-Victorian structure, complete with wrap-around porches and an octagonal tower with a pepper-pot roof.

In 1942, the Havre de Grace Hospital was renamed Harford Memorial Hospital. In 1944, a new structure was completed. Since then, there have been several additions and changes to the facilities. Harford Memorial is now part of Upper Chesapeake Health.

Harford County Directory of 1953
Official Programs for the Havre de Grace Racetrack 1918

Credit to Tony Simone

The late Tony Simone was well-known in Havre de Grace for his photography. Thanks to his son, Bill, our ‘casual historian’ has quite a collection of his photographs. He also has the newspaper spread that was in The RECORD on 8/18/2000. Here’s a photo of Tony in his home taken by Brian Krista.

Photo of Tony Simone, The RECORD newspaper, 8/18/2000 – taken by Brian Krista
Golden Vein horse - Havre de Grace racetrack - 1937 - Watts family
Golden Vein horse – Havre de Grace racetrack – 1937 – Watts family
Balu Mike, owned by Newmeyers - 1947 - Havre de Grace racetrack
Balu Mike, owned by Newmeyers – 1947 – Havre de Grace racetrack
1/20/1924 - Havre de Grace jockey, Donald Mergler on "Attilia"
Local Havre de Grace Jockey, Don Mergler on “Attilia” 1924

A Unique Video on “The Graw”

The Main Street organization created an annual event, “Graw Days,” celebrating the history of the Havre de Grace Racetrack from 2008 thru 2014. Below is a video created and produced by the late Mike Brown that really shares the ‘flavor of the city during the holidays.’ Enjoy!

You can still talk to folks in Havre de Grace that remember their parents renting out rooms. Many moms earned their Christmas money renting out a room or two. There were complaints about the number of people in town making it hard to park or to go to your local restaurant! (Some things never change.) Even the kids would sneak out of school, go to the track and lay on the stable roofs to watch the activities!

The Mergler Brothers – Donald and Joe – were local jockeys. And Dr. Leon Herbert Tubbs, a veterinarian and owner of the Old Bay Farm has ties to the racetrack as does the Watts Family and Golden Vein Farm. Our ‘casual historian’ is working on more of this history!

1952 aerial shot of the Havre de Grace Racetrack
1952 aerial shot of the Havre de Grace Racetrack
Same area in 2013 – Google Earth image – National Guard now replaces the old racetrack

The story of the Havre de Grace Racetrack is filled with history, characters, and community. The likes of Al Capone stayed at the Chesapeake Hotel (now the Creole de Graw Restaurant at Franklin and Union). And, of course, the notorious gambler Arnold Rothstein played a role in the track!

Stop in and chat with our ‘casual historian.’ George is always ready to share a story or two, but also is waiting to hear what you might have to share.

Remember, don’t throw the Havre de Grace ‘stuff’ out when you’re cleaning out a home, settling an estate, or just ‘downsizing,’ without checking in with George. Don’t give him cause to cry!!!

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