The early era of Long Island motor sports was on full display on Saturday, April 26, as the Vanderbilt Cup Race Historic marker was unveiled in a ceremony on the corner of Emerson Ave. and Jericho Tpke. Members of the Floral Park Historical Society as well as local politicians were on hand to reveal the marker, which pays tribute to the first International major auto race in the USA run on a public road. The race ran through Floral Park on Oct. 8, 1904. Long Island hosted six Vanderbilt Cup races from 1904 to 1910.
“This marker is a testament to William K. Vanderbilt, who was one of the first people to encourage the sport of auto racing to take place on Long Island,” said Historian from the Town of North Hempstead, Howard Kroplick. “These races eventually led to the creation of the Long Island Motor Parkway, one of the first parkways on Long Island.”
Kroplick said that the Vanderbilt Cup Races were one of the most prestigious sporting events in the country, the “Super Bowl of its day.” The races inspired a heavy turnout of onlookers, sometimes upwards of 50,000 spectators in and around the course.
The inaugural Long Island race in 1904 featured 17 vehicles and a competition between European and American drivers. The race ran over a 30.24-mile course of dirt roads through Nassau County and the community of Floral Park.
Kroplick showed off his car, the 1909 Alco-6 Racer “Black Beast” at the ceremony. Kroplick purchased the car, which competed in 15 major automobile races including two Vanderbilt Cup races, in 2008. The “Black Beast” won six races highlighted by consecutive Vanderbilt Cup Race victories in 1909 and 1910.
Floral Park Historical Society Director and Historian of the Village of Floral Park Walter Gosden, who helped restore the Vanderbilt marker, said that it was important to recognize all of historical events in town.
“These races were so important for our area, helping to develop the parkways on Long Island,” said Gosden.
New York State Senator Jack Martins, who was in attendance at the ceremony, said, “We must preserve and celebrate all of our history on Long Island; I want to thank the Floral Park Historical Society for restoring this marker.”