One of the coolest things about my job as a Local History Librarian is the new things that I discover almost every day. While doing some research on an entirely different matter, I discovered something that I was not originally aware of. I did not know that Niagara Falls had a race track!
In late 1922, two prominent Canadian sportsmen, P.G. Demetre and Thomas Duggan joined forces to build a race track. Originally owned by James A. House, the 185 acres of land was located on the west side of Montrose Road between the Canadian National Railway tracks and Woodbine Avenue. Taking its name from its location in Stamford Township, Stamford Park opened on October 13, 1923.
The newly constructed grandstand could seat 1200 people and the half-mile track was located directly in front of the stands. Across the infield stood the stables that had enough room to hold 260 horses. Over the next few years, the track became so popular that it was necessary to increase the size of the grandstand by 50% in 1927. During this same year, the half-mile track was discontinued in favour of a new mile-long track.
In the mid -1930s, an unfortunate fire struck the track in the stable area. New larger stables were constructed which were capable of housing 380 horses. Then came the war years with various restrictions that made it difficult to maintain and repair the track. In 1945, Mr. P.G. Demetre passed away and his son John took over. With the war restrictions behind him, he began a major program of reconstruction and improvement.
A new and even grander grandstand was built that could seat 3,200 fans and many of the other buildings were repaired and modernized. The stable area was expanded once again with room for 750 horses, many tack rooms and even a restaurant for the stable employees. Between races, many guests could quench their thirst in the new full-service Colonial Room restaurant.
The year 1950 saw even more improvements take place, including a new infield board and the creation of a large beautiful 750,000 gallon man-made lake in the infield. The older half-mile track was even used for stock car races! The last race at Stamford Park was held on Labour Day in 1953. Eventually, the buildings were torn down. Today, this area is now the Ascot Woods subdivision.
Cathy Roy is the Local History Librarian.
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