Sports Temples of Boston: Sports Temples of Boston: Images of Historic Ballparks, Arenas, and Statiums 1872-1972

Suffolk Downs

East Boston, Massachusetts
1960-1969

Suffolk Downs was constructed on the mud flats of East Boston and opened its gates in 1935 as Boston’s and the Commonwealth’s first major racetrack. An estimated 35,000 people attended the opening races and it was not unusual for that many fans to turn out for opening days and major racing events. Horse racing was a hugely popular sport in those days, as can be attested by the 52,726 fans - the largest official crowd ever at Suffolk Downs - who attended the race track on August 10, 1935.

The facility was known for its fast racing strip. It had the only concrete grandstand in America at the time. Over its seven decades, many fans have bet on races and enjoyed the thrill of the home stretch. Many great thoroughbreds have raced at Suffolk Downs including the renowned Seabiscuit who on August 7, 1937, as the odds-on favorite, bested the field in the running of the Massachusetts Handicap.

Suffolk Downs has been used for a host of other events; one of the most memorable was the Beatles concert on August 8, 1966 with 25,000 fans attending.  Other unusual events in the 1960s included chariot races and mock Indian battles in the infield.

Although thoroughbred horse racing is not as popular as in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Suffolk Downs serves as the only horse track in Boston.

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Bill Veeck at Suffolk Downs

1. Bill Veeck at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010062
East Boston, Massachusetts (1968)

Bill Veeck, President of Suffolk Downs, sits in stands in clubhouse, talking to reporters.

Bill Veeck speaks with reporters in clubhouse at Suffolk Downs

2. Bill Veeck speaks with reporters in clubhouse at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010063
East Boston, Massachusetts (1968)

Bill Veeck, President of Suffolk Downs, sits in old wooden stands in clubhouse, facing the press.

Jim Braddock and Wally Berger at Suffolk Downs

3. Jim Braddock and Wally Berger at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010523
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
East Boston, Massachusetts (1935)

Braddock and Berger lean against fence in front of Suffolk Downs clubhouse, East Boston.

Policemen guard trucks at Suffolk Downs during strike

4. Policemen guard trucks at Suffolk Downs during strike

Image number: 05_02_010803
East Boston, Massachusetts (1955)

Newspaper caption on verso reads, "Policemen John Ridge and John Welch stand by trucks at Suffolk Downs today that carry the track's pari-mutuel equipment. The AFL union drivers and helpers have refused to unload the trucks. This and picketing forced ca

Mayor and Mrs. John F. Collins visit Suffolk Downs

5. Mayor and Mrs. John F. Collins visit Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010860
East Boston, Massachusetts (1962)

Newspaper caption on verso reads, "Friendly greeting is given to Mayor and Mrs. Collins by Suffolk Downs president John C. Pappas at memorial of Joseph A. Tomasello, original builder of track. Modernized Suffolk Downs opens 33-night harness racing meet t

Plaque for Joseph Anthony Tomasello memorial at Suffolk Downs

6. Plaque for Joseph Anthony Tomasello memorial at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010867
East Boston, Massachusetts (1962)

"Plaque to be incorporated with a memorial to the original builder of Suffolk Downs" is written in pencil on verso.

Results of suspected arson of stables at Suffolk Downs

7. Results of suspected arson of stables at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010871
East Boston, Massachusetts (1968)

Newspaper caption on verso reads, "Inspecting damage while firefighters continue watering down stables and hay is a Boston deputy. Several horses were killed and property losses were in the thousands in the suspected arson."

Commercial Plastics & Supply Corp., Somerville, getting set up at Suffolk Downs

8. Commercial Plastics & Supply Corp., Somerville, getting set up at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010881
East Boston, Massachusetts (1971)

Employees of the Commercial Plastics & Supply Corp. set up display case at Suffolk Downs.

Mini-skirted mutuels messengers at Suffolk Downs

9. Mini-skirted mutuels messengers at Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010965
East Boston, Massachusetts (1969)

Newspaper caption on verso reads, "Bill Veeck, President of Suffolk Downs, has come up with another first in New England racing - mini-skirted mutuels messengers."

Left to right, Jerome Deutsh, Bill Veeck and David Haber of Suffolk Downs

10. Left to right, Jerome Deutsh, Bill Veeck and David Haber of Suffolk Downs

Image number: 05_02_010966
East Boston, Massachusetts (1968)

Newspaper caption on verso reads, "New Suffolk triumvirate - Jerome Deutsch (left), senior vice president of Realty Equities Corp., joins hands with Bill Veeck, who will become president and chief executive officer at Suffolk Downs when REC assumes operat

 
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Sports Temples of Boston: Images of Historic Ballparks, Arenas and Stadiums, 1872-1972
has been made possible through a Library Services and Technology Act grant
administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.