Dexter Park (Queens)
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Dexter Park was located in the Queens, New York neighborhood of Woodhaven, just north of Eldert Lane and Jamaica Avenue, not far from the borough line with Brooklyn. It had a long early history starting in the 19th century as a recreational park, which replaced a racetrack.
Woodhaven in the 19th century became home to various tracks as Queens lacked the stricter rules of Brooklyn. Hotels sprung up to house gentlemen and Woodhaven became the site of two racetracks: the Union Course (1821) and the Centerville (1825). Union Course was a nationally famous racetrack situated in the area now bounded by 78th Street, 82nd Street, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. Elderts lane was the city line and the park was just beyond that in Queens. Legend has it that the track was named for a famous horse called Dexter, reputedly buried at the site. However, the Brooklyn Eagle disputed this claim in 1891:
The name of Hiram Woodruff recalls Dexter Park. Hiram was the first owner of that property, and, until five or six years ago, his name still appeared in big letters over the horseshed adjoining the hotel. Then the shed was blown down, and when it was rebuilt the name of Hiram Woodruff had disappeared. But Dexter Park did not take its name from the famous trotter owned by the proprietor of the place. It was known simply as Hiram's, and when Woodruff died a man named Charles Dexter took charge of the place. From that time on it has been known as Dexter Park.'
The lineage progressed from Dexter to Charles Durlier, thence Louis Miller. Under Miller's stewardship the park was devoted to Pidgeon shooting in the 19th century. While disreputable, it was legal this side of the kings county line, as was observed by the South Side observer in 1885:
"Dexter's on the plankroad and just east of the Kings county line is a complete resort for Sunday base ball players. The participants are a class who have been under the eye of the Kings County authorities for some time, but escaped arrest by stepping over into this county. Applause and yelling are the order of the afternoon, and intoxicants are sold.."
it noted disapprovingly.
The first regular ballgame was in 1889 when the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad met the Merrits for a Sunday opener that season. The Royal Arcanum League made it their home in the 1890's. In 1901 ownership passed to the William Ulmer Brewery which installed Conrad Hasenflug as manager. This period saw the Brooklyn Royal Giants featured prominently from 1905-1913, with football team Herkimer A.A. sharing the marcee. As Sunday Blue Laws were less strictly enforced in Queens the destination was quite popular, with the elevated station at 75th street the J line was crowded on sundays to and from Brooklyn.
Dexter Park was the home of the Brooklyn Bushwicks, an independent semi-pro team that played there from 1913 until 1951, when they folded. The park was purchased for them from the Ulmer Brewery in 1922. The Bushwicks played many teams in the Negro Leagues as well as various All-Star teams. Dexter Park and the Bushwicks were owned by Max Rosner. The lighting system, which was first used on July 23, 1930, was among the first permanent lighting systems for night baseball in the U.S. and the first in New York City (Ebbets Field was not lighted for the Dodgers until 1938) and was designed and installed by Max Rosner's son, Herman Rosner, who was an electrical engineer. Many former Major League ballplayers were featured on the Bushwicks, like the Cuccinello brothers. According to the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society sign at the site, the first night game at this venue was played in 1930. Josh Gibson once hit a home run over the 30-foot high wall behind the 418-foot deep left-center bleachers. The Brooklyn Farmers also played at Dexter Park, as did the Brooklyn Royal Giants, of the Negro Leagues, in the 1920s and 1930s. Dexter Park set an attendance high for a National Challenge Cup (soccer) final in 1929, when 21,583 fans saw New York Hakoah defeat Madison Kennel of St. Louis. A record that stood for more than 80 years, until October 5, 2010, when 31,311 attended an Open Cup final at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington.
Stock car racing was added to the site on April 15, 1951 and continued until 1955, when the park was sold and one and two family houses and a C-Town Supermarket were built on the site.
- "Union Course Racetrack". Currier & Ives lithographs—bottom detail shows early Union Course railroad station. Factory is Union Chemical Color Works.
- https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84031784/ |Publishers: George Wallace, 1870-1873, Wallace Brothers, 1873-1896, and South Side Observer Co., 1896-1918. LCCN: sn 84031784; OCLC: 11424041
- Cooney, Betty M. (November 9, 2000). "Former Area Baseball Players Reminisce At Dexter Park Site". Queens Chronicle. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
- Lowry, Philip (2006). Green Cathedrals. Walker & Company. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8027-1608-8.
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