Hey there, car fans – we forgot to tell you about one event. Hodgkins, IL is having its Quarry Days 2013 festival on Friday and Saturday, September 6-7. The fest will be at the park in the heart of town, along East Avenue a few blocks south of Joliet Road. The real treat for roadies, however, is the post-car-show car cruise from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (that’s right – right after the Berwyn Route 66 Car Show, 6.5 miles and 15 minutes away, ends). YES!!! One last cruise of the summer. Let’s hope for a dry day and evening.
On that Saturday, the Hodgkins Historical Society will have an open house from 10 a.m. to noon at 6511 Kane Ave. That’s just down the block from Buck’s Pit Stop, the racing fan’s eatery, 6501 Kane Ave. at the corner of Lyons Street and kitty-corner from the park. Both Buck’s and the historical society have racing memorabilia from the heydays of the local racetracks. There will also be fireworks at the end of the day at 9 p.m.
Racing fans know that during the early 1950s, tiny Hodgkins was home to two auto racetracks just off Route 66, Lenzi Park Speedway and Mance Park Speedway. Lenzi Park was built right on the grounds of the Cole Lenzi Recreation Park at Joliet Road/U.S. Route 66 and East Avenue. The rec field had featured baseball, bowling and football since at least the mid-1940s. By 1952, however, Lenzi had 1/6-mile and 1/8-mile dirt tracks. Mance Park was at 65th Street and La Grange Road. In 1953, Mance had a 1/5-mile dirt oval for two seasons (through 1954), then a paved 1/5-mile oval that operated through 1960.
The tracks didn’t last all that long, all things considered, but Hodgkins commemorated both by naming streets after them. Lenzi Avenue runs north-south one block east of East Avenue south of old Joliet Road (right next to the section that’s closed through the quarry) and is barely a few blocks long. Mance Street runs east-west for two blocks at about 6400 south, west of East Avenue.
The 800-pound gorilla of the bunch, however, was about 5 miles southwest (as the crow flies) at 91st Street and Wolf Road: Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs, which was originally Tiedtville (pronounced TEET-ville). Santa Fe Park was a picnic grove and horse racing track opened back in 1896 by local resident Frederick C. Tiedt. It was so named for the nearby Santa Fe railroad tracks. The original track was used in succession by horses, bicycles, automobiles and motorcycles until the late 1920s when a tornado destroyed the original grandstand. At that point, racing stopped for about a quarter-century.
Frederick Tiedt died in 1946. His son Howard Tiedt founded Santa Fe Park Enterprises, Inc., some time before 1953, then began rebuilding the racetrack and grounds. Two new tracks were built: a 7/16-mile clay oval and a 1/4-mile oval. This was the racing park that we knew and loved until the property was sold in 1995 for a housing development. Howard Tiedt died in 1990; daughter Mary Lou and her husband, John Moskal, managed the track’s final years. The park stood idle then through 1998, then finally fell to the wrecking ball in 1999, after which that subdivision was built at the turn of the new millennium.
Like Hodgkins, though, the developers did honor the old track by naming two of the subdivision’s streets Santa Fe Court and Santa Fe Lane. And yes, you can stand at the corner where they intersect and pine for the vanished track, but the neighbors will probably think you’re weird. Better to visit the Indian Prairie Public Library system’s Flickr photostream on Tiedtville, Santa Fe Park and Santa Fe Speedway (then you can stare online as long as you like).
Until next time,