Historic Structures

Expansion of the Complex Longacres Park Horse Track, Renton Washington

Over the five decades that followed, Longacres continued to experience almost constant physical change. Perhaps few such facilities have been so thoroughly transformed in such a short period of time. While its original and primary function -- thoroughbred horse racing -- remained always the same, Longacres' physical adaptation to shifting cultural trends accounted in large measure for its continued popular success.

The greatest single impetus for change was the everincreasing size of the audience. From an opening-day crowd of 11,000 in 1933, to an all-time record high of 25,031 on Mile Day in August of 1981, attendance grew steadily. Moreover, the racing season was extended in length, each year, from an initial 40-day meet in 1933, to a record 146- day meet in 1986. Racing in the rainy months of the Pacific Northwest spring and fall required more sheltered accommodations for fans. Periodic winter flood damage plagued the track and resulted in significant physical improvements until the construction of dikes along the Green River and the completion of Howard Hanson Dam in 1963. Over time, the addition of more and varied races to the seasonal Longacres program attracted growing numbers of horsemen, and the backstretch facilities were enlarged accordingly. Finally, Morrie Alhadeff's successful marketing campaign to draw a family audience to Longacres influenced design decisions on the public side of the track. To keep pace with these diverse trends, Longacres management made annual improvements and additions to the physical plant, treating even major alterations as a necessary part of on-going maintenance.

The track and infield experienced significant physical changes over time, although on the whole, they remained the most constant visual component at Longacres. Some changes, such as the landscaping around the tote board and resurfacing of the track, were gradual and incremental in character, others more specific in time.

Military barracks were constructed behind the tote board during the dark season of 1943, and remodeled as a summer residence for the Gottsteins by 1945.

Concrete wall replaced original picket fence along final stretch, after a horse vaults into the crowd during the 1952 season.

To keep pace with increasing attendance, a multitude of modifications and additions were made to the grandstand facilities over time. Although these began with the construction of an entire section of open bleachers in the second season of racing (1934), the scope and scale of alterations grew in the period from 1940 to 1990. Seating capacity ultimately increased to 25,000 in 1982.

Of all the facilities at Longacres, the clubhouse underwent the most extensive physical transformation over time. The original freestanding, Colonial-Revival building was gradually obscured behind layers of additions to it in all directions. From the 1930s on, a structural connection was made with the grandstand to the north, and that connection in turn evolved and expanded. The interior of the clubhouse became a labyrinth of interconnected restaurants, lounges, and betting areas.

Like the other components at Longacres, the paddock also evolved, undergoing a major alteration every 15 years or so.

The jockey building, commonly referred to as the jockeyroom, underwent three major expansions and, by 1966, bore no resemblance to its original design.

As Longacres gained fame in the racing world, more and more thoroughbred horses required stable space in the backstretch area for the racing season. This pressure brought about change and expansion over the years, but the physical integrity of the backstretch and its sense of place remained strong, until construction crews demolished all but ten of the original 1933 stables as the Boeing CSTC project got underway in the fall of 1992. The backstretch functioned as a small community, its structures and features specialized and key to the whole. Barn styles evolved over time, but the basic concept of stable design was repeated in the barns of several decades.