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Rockford's Forgotten Driving Park

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Tinker Swiss Cottage closes out their Summer Lecture Series with local historian and author Amanda Becker. Local thrill-seekers at the turn of the 20th century knew that all the action was at the Driving Park. But few today know the drama buried beneath a West End subdivision.

At the height of the horse racing craze after the Civil War, prominent Rockford businessmen raised $25,000 to build a harness racetrack there in 1890 (the name refers to the person in the cart pulled by a horse--the driver). The versatile venue evolved to stay relevant, weathering the 1893 financial panic and welcoming bicycle mania. Events ranged from high school track meets to early auto racing. Folks saw a soccer game one week and a circus the next. Controversy erupted at times, from gambling and drinking to a murder and a KKK rally. Historian and author Amanda Becker reveals this colorful story nearly forgotten since 1938.

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Subarea:Rockford Southwest


Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum - 411 Kent St., Rockford, IL 61102 - Take E. State Street (Business 20) into Downtown Rockford, continue on E. State Street to Winnebago, turn left onto Winnebago and continue to the Tinker Swiss Cottage sign. Turn left into the Tinker driveway. Parallel parking is available alongside the road or visitors may continue past the Visitor Center and Cottage to the main parking lot. From Bypass 20, take the Main Street exit and head north on South Main Street to Kent Street. Turn left onto Kent and go one block and turn right into the Tinker parking lot.

Rockford's Forgotten Driving Park