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Cincinnati’s Velodrome

January 26, 2012

Aerial view of Chester Park

In 1895 the cycling community of Cincinnati was excited to hear of plans to build a cement bicycle track in Chester Park; a popular entertainment destination located off of Spring Grove Avenue. The track was to have dressing rooms and training quarters for the cyclists.

A popular route for cyclists out of downtown, Spring Grove Avenue follows the Mill Creek, passes through Carthage and Elmwood Place, and continues on to Hamilton. J.E. Poorman’s annual road race from Hamilton Ohio to the Winton Place area would now be able to arrive and take a turn around the velodrome.

J.E. Poorman race medal

For years the area racing men (and women) had to make do with local horse racing tracks; such as tracks in Latonia Kentucky, Carthage, and Oakley. The soft soil of these tracks made it difficult for the riders, so a cement track was eagerly anticipated. There had been hints from various clubs and investors of plans to build a bicycle only track for many years. The Walnut Hills Cycling club discussed plans to build a clubhouse and track in the 1890’s. There was also talk of building a race track at the popular Ludlow Lagoon in Kentucky (a banked  motorcycle track was built at the lagoon in 1913, but it closed after a fiery crash killed nine).

In late January 1896 Bearings Magazine reported that “the new track has passed from the hands of the Cincinnati Consolidated Street Railway Co. into those of the Chester Park Athletic Club.” The track opened with a grand bicycle festival that May 2, and attracted out of town professional racers as well as the locals. The track manager scheduled weekly professional races on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pro level talent was under par for the Cincinnati racers, so it was announced that spring that the track would begin to host race events for “locals only” in addition to its regular scheduled A races.

Ludlow Lagoon motorcycle Track; 1913

In the picture of the Ludlow Lagoon track above one can still see the Cincinnati Southern Railway bridge in the background which still stands.

Here is a plan showing the track in 1896:

Here is a contemporary photo showing the cement track. One can also see the overhead wires for lights which allowed for night races:

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote on May 20, 1896: “Tonight Chester Park will hold an electric light race tournament…The riders this evening will plainly be seen and the event in detail will be no less ably managed than the events given by daylight.”  In addition to overhead lighting, the track manager had four large cadmium lights that would spotlight the riders as they raced around the track. Nightime racing during the week would provide a welcome diversion for those who had to work Monday through Saturday (Sundays were for riding!)

Plans were also made to have a large indoor cycling venue with electric lighting and exhibitor booths, but it’s not clear whether this was ever realized.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. alex permalink
    February 17, 2012 4:52 am

    i think this is my first time here…. don’t know why. this is awesome.

  2. goat kamal permalink
    May 9, 2012 3:46 pm

    Can any of the remains of this be seen on a google map? I’m having a hard time picturing where this was.

    • May 10, 2012 2:00 am

      Unfortunately it’s pretty well disappeared. There is still a Chester Ave. and a Station Ave fragment next to the site. There used to be a light rail station there that would bring downtowners up for the entertainment. Chester Park closed in 1932. I’ve ridden my bike down there looking for evidence and couldn’t find anything. Thanks for reading!

    • Jim Coppock permalink
      January 24, 2013 10:22 pm

      Looks like Cincinnati Water Works took most of this space over. I have a map from 1912 that shows it – west of Mitchell Ave, north of Spring Grove.

      • January 28, 2013 9:26 pm

        Chester Park was what is now Winton Place. The Cincinnati Water Works on Spring Grove Avenue was part of it. The light industrial area surrounding it included. Spring Grove Cemetery was its next door neighbor one might say.

    • Michael permalink
      January 26, 2013 12:12 am

      Its at the end of Cliffton ave & Spring Grove ave, East of Winton Rd. & West of Mitchell Ave. The water works, Frisch Big Boy, The old Shillito’s warehouse is where it use to stand.. I hope this helps you.

    • January 28, 2013 9:21 pm

      Chester Park was what is now Winton Place. The Cincinnati Water Works on Spring Grove Avenue was part of it. The light industrial area surrounding it included. Spring Grove Cemetery was its next door neighbor one might say.

  3. deca2499 permalink
    June 19, 2012 7:50 pm

    I have ridden past this spot on my bicycle many, many times and never knew that was the location. The location is now for the most part, parking lots and buildings for the Cincinnati Water Works, Enerfab and a few other businesses. Would have been interesting to see what it was like in its heyday.

  4. January 24, 2013 9:41 pm

    As long as I have been on the cycling scene here in Cincinnati, I never heard of the velodrome at Chester Park. I know of the park and several bike clubs of that era. Someday I want to study that time in more detail. Very interesting!

    • January 28, 2013 9:33 pm

      I’m looking up history dates of the Bicycle Playing Card Company…..founded right here in Cincinnati. I worked there through college; (was in Norwood until 2 years ago; now in Hebron, Ky.) I’ve always been curious about the name and use of Bicycle. I thought it had something to do with the Wright Brothers Bicycle shop just up in Dayton. Love to know more than that……the bicycle was a big deal back then, and we lose sight of its significance culturally, socially and historically.

  5. January 25, 2013 11:54 am

    Love it;) Nate Burton

  6. January 28, 2013 9:30 pm

    In French Lick/West Baden Hotels (Indiana) there was a two-level bicycle racing track built around the same time. A huge attraction. I knew about it from years of research about 15 years ago. A native Cincinnatian, and Chester Park fan, I didn’t know about the Veoldome until today! Tons of postcards of Chester Park abound however. The last remaining vestige of Chester Park was the Winton Place Train Station on Spring Grove (about across the street from current Water Works)….it carried tons of Park visitors from the city. Station Avenue still exists,,,,station gone. Winton Place Station is in Sharon Woods Heritage Village in Hamilton County, Ohio.

  7. January 28, 2013 9:38 pm

    Bicycle Playing Cards came first…..1880’s. : )

  8. Amy permalink
    August 14, 2014 2:58 pm

    Fascinating! I drive past this on an almost weekly basis. When was it torn down? This has just inspired me to do some research.

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