Union Park ready for action
ISHPEMING — In October of 1889, several Ishpeming residents made another attempt to establish a horse racing park/driving track.
“During the week there has been developed a plan and money raised for the construction of a race track, horse, between this city and Negaunee upon lands owned by the Cleveland Iron Mining company.” (Iron Ore, October 19, 1889)
“A few years ago several Ishpeming men possessed one of the finest tracks in the region but were forced to relinquish it because the owners of the land upon which it was located could not extend the term of the lease, which was for the short period of five years.” (Iron Ore, October 19, 1889)
The Cleveland Iron Mining company owned the land for the first track and quickly leased the land for residential lots, which may have been why they did not renew the lease. This time around, the land chosen was not close to either Ishpeming or Negaunee, so it was unlikely to be used for residential purposes. The new lease was for 20 years.
“Taking the initiative is Mr. F. Braastad, whose liberality and prominence in public affairs has long been well known, and who is determined that a race course will be provided which will be second to no other like institution in the country as regards its appointments. Closely associated with Mr. Braastad in the way of liberal donations is Mr. John P. Outhwaite, of the Nelson, Capt. W.J. Officer of the Braastad mines, and Mr. John Jones of the American Express company.” (Iron Ore, October 19, 1889)
“A number of Ishpeming gentlemen who are interested in sports of all kinds have arranged to open the first thing next spring a driving and ball park east of the city. The ground is located in the vicinity of the Standard Oil company’s property, and is about mid-way between this city and Negaunee. The present plan is to make the park a joint affair for the two cities. The Ishpeming men are all ready to put their money into the project and a number of Negaunee men have signified their willingness to join in the effort to secure and improve the grounds.” (Mining Journal, October 16, 1889)
“It is not supposed by those who are putting their money into the track that it will prove an investment from which any interest will be derived. It is expended with a full realization of the fact that race tracks are not money makers, but those inter4sted figure that they will secure fun enough from the races to be had to fully make up for all that it costs.” (Iron Ore, October 19, 1889)
“It is probably that no attempt will be made this fall to enclose and fix up the grounds, but the work will be done in the spring just as soon as the snow leaves, and the clubs at both Negaunee and Ishpeming will find the best grounds in the county at their disposal by the time the ball season opens. The grounds will be, of course, quite a distance from the city, but the construction of an electric railway – which is the same as assured – will make the park easily accessible. (Mining Journal, October 16, 1889)
By the next summer the park had been named Union Park and was ready for action.
“The little boys should now commence to save up the gold specimens for there is a circus coming. It is that of Main and Franklin, said to be one of the best in the country. It will exhibit at Union Park, between this city and Negaunee. It is carried by its own trains, possesses many new features, and of it more will be known in a few days when the advertising agent comes. The date set for this place is June 19.” (Iron Ore, May 24, 1890)
“The Union Park association is now covering its track with hematite and cinders. This is being mixed with the loam of the track and it is the intention to have a race in the near future. The directors visited the park Tuesday morning and laid out the stable row, which will be an extensive one. This, as well as the wrestling ring will be fenced off from the park proper. The association has also added more territory to its former leasehold. The addition will include the beautiful hill immediately to the north and which has been an elegant grandstand for the boys who are not armed with the necessary 35 cents to enter the grounds and enjoy a grandstand seat.
This hill, with its wealth of foliage which offered cooling shade from the blistering sun, and whose proximity to the park was all that could be desired, has been liberally patronized, and it is proposed to charge admission to its summit in case there be those who wish to sit upon it. A fence of many wires and numerous barbs will be constructed and there will be a policeman in attendance whose business it will be to protect the association from cheap sightseers.” (Iron Ore, June 21, 1890)
Union Park was busy during the summer of 1890 with baseball games, celebrations and more and in August, finally, horse racing.
“In the races to be held at Union Park, this place, the records of the different horses will be counted up to the tenth of July last. This has been decided upon so that there may be no misunderstanding after horses have reached here. It might be that a horse would lower his record a few days previous to his arrival here and be entered in a lower class at the same time. This might create a confusion, and the management has wisely decided to have a time to which the records will be figured.” (Iron Ore, August 2, 1890)
Union Park would go on to become a much used, well-loved place for many years. After it closed, the grounds would still be used as a safe place for teens to learn how to drive.