Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Meadowdale Raceway stood-stands, really, since it's still there-in suburban Carpentersville. It hosted all manner of sports car racing for about a decade in the sixties before increasing debts and decreasing ticket sales caused the owners to close the gates for the last time. Gone were the cars and noise, the spectacle, the fun. Amazingly, the land lay fallow for decades, until the property was turned into a hiking area and forest preserve.
Hiking it is an eerie experience, even now that it's been cleared of garbage, and has some amenities like benches and shelters. The track surface survives in many places*, and you can follow it most of the way around. Down the banked Corkscrew, uphill through the esses, all along the signature mile-long straightaway. All of this winds through the woods, leafy maples crowding the old, cracked pavement, pines dotting the infield. It's beautiful, but haunting, and one can almost hear the engines.
Period photos show a fully built up facility, with concession stands, a timing tower, bleachers, marshal posts, and billboards. None of this exists anymore, the victims of time, weather, and vandalism. A pile of rubble is all that exists of a hot dog stand near the pits, and a concrete pad that once held a pair of Pure Oil gasoline pumps. A pair of telephone poles on the hill at the inside of Doane's Corner mark a marshal's stand. Wire fencing shows up here and there, buried in the trees. But otherwise, nothing.
Except the Silo. At the bottom of the track, just after the Corkscrew, stands the Pure Oil Silo. It has stood in this spot since before the war, when this area was all farmland. Painted white, with the Pure logo signwritten at the top, it became a landmark for the track, then and now. Today it stands faded and chipped, bearing mute witness to cyclists and dog walkers, rather than the roar of engines.
*There have been some changes at the track since I first wrote this. A paved bike path has been run over most of the course, however the original racing surface was removed to do so. This is most noticeable in the Corkscrew, and in the strip of new blacktop that runs up the long, long main straight. Also, the silo has been repainted. Fortunately, it was restored to it's Meadowdale livery. While I liked the patina of the old paint, I appreciate that the park district went to the effort to preserve this bit of history. See the restored silo here.