Donít Bet on This One

Essex Park Ė Malvern Road and the main train route are located between the grandstands and the mountains. Lake Catherine is located in the foreground from this picture.

Many citizens in Hot Springs know Oaklawn Park Race Track as the premier thoroughbred racetrack of the south. A little known fact, is that since Hot Springs was such a hotbed for gambling, it once had 2 racing facilities. In 1904 Essex Park Race track was opened on Malvern Road, butted up against the train route from Hot Springs to Malvern. Essex Park was convenient because of its location on the main road coming into town - Malvern Road. (Malvern Road is also the setting of Frank and Jesse Jamesí robbery in the mid 1800ís.) Since travel by train was the preferred travel option in the early 1900ís, Essex Park was well-situated, just walking distance from the train route. On the other side of the racetrack was Lake Catherine, providing an atmosphere of ambience to the patrons. That same year, (1904) a group of St. Louis turfmen opened Oaklawn Park closer to downtown Hot Springs.

In 1907 the Arkansas state legislature banned betting on horse racing. Essex Park and Oaklawn Park were closed. In 1917 a business consortium re-opened horse racing as non-profit. (thatís the American way, take something that is considered immoral and make it non-profit Ė that makes it okay!) The competition between Oaklawn and Essex Park was up and running again.

However, Essex Parkís grandstand was destroyed by fire the day after its grand re-opening! Was it a coincidence that Essex Park was destroyed by fire? Who was responsible for this untimely fire?

Essex Park never recovered, and the property sat dormant for many years. In 1994, a 9-hole public golf course was developed on the property. It is currently known as Essex Park Golf Course.

Dr. Rando

PhD. of Wit


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