April 26, 2013
Dear NJ cycling organizations, bicycle shops, and Garden State cycling fans,
Hope all is well. My name is Michael Gabriele and I'm a member of the executive board of the Nutley Historical Society. Some of you may know me as the author of the 2011 book published by The History Press: "The Golden Age of Bicycle Racing in New Jersey."
The Nutley Historical Society, in cooperation with the Nutley Public Library and the Nutley Township Commissioners, will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the opening of The Nutley Velodrome on June 4. Attached below is a press release that spells out plans for this celebration.
We cordially invite all of you and your associates to attend the festivities, which marks a major milestone in the grand history of bicycle racing in New Jersey. The Nutley Velodrome opened on June 4, 1933.
We are getting the word out early on this celebration, as we realize the spring season is a busy time of the year for bike organizations and bike riders.
As you will read below, we've planned two events on June 4: first, we will dedicate a monument to the velodrome at the Nutley Parks and Recreation building, 44 Park Avenue, at 4 p.m. Later that same day, at 7 p.m., the Nutley Historical Society will host a program on the velodrome at the Nutley Museum (65 Church Street), featuring yours truly.
We hope you're able to join us to celebrate this anniversary. Please feel free to pass the word to your members, clients, colleagues and other cycling groups.
Attached in this e-mail are two images: a Nutley Velodrome program from June 9, 1935; and a shot of a motorpace trial run on the velodrome track.
Nutley Historical Society
NUTLEY—On Tuesday, June 4, the Nutley Historical Society, in cooperation with the Township of Nutley and the Nutley Public Library, will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Nutley Velodrome, the legendary cycling track that was part of the “golden age” of bicycle racing in the United States.
Two events will commemorate the velodrome’s anniversary; both events are free and open to the public. First, there will be a 4 p.m. ceremony at the Nutley Parks Department building, 44 Park Ave., which is near the site where the velodrome once stood. Township commissioners, along with members of the Nutley Historical Society’s executive board, will dedicate a monument to the velodrome. Commissioners also will read a proclamation.
Later that same day, at 7 p.m., the historical society will host a program at the Nutley Museum, 65 Church St., featuring author and historian Michael Gabriele. Two years ago Gabriele wrote “The Golden Age of Bicycle Racing in New Jersey,” published by The History Press, which chronicles the 130-year history of cycling in the Garden State. The program will include a presentation by Gabriele, along with a display of photos, programs and cycling memorabilia. A limited number of Gabriele’s books will be available for sale.
In addition to the two events on June 4, the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, beginning June 1, will feature a month-long display of photos, velodrome programs and cycling memorabilia in its main lobby.
The Nutley Velodrome opened on Sunday, June 4, 1933, to a capacity crowd of 12,000 fans. Joseph Miele, an entrepreneur and sportsman from East Orange, led the effort to build the track. A field of top international cycling stars—Gerard Debaets of Belgium; Alfred Letourner of France; Franz Deulberg of Germany; Giovanni Manera of Italy; Charlie Jaeger and Tino Reboli of Newark; Paul Croley of Brooklyn; Norman Hill, from San Jose, CA; and Australians Cecil Walker and Reggie McNamara—were featured in opening-day racing events.
The Nutley Velodrome is an important fixture in New Jersey’s grand cycling legacy. The state is acknowledged as the “cradle of cycling” for the United States. From the 1890s to 1940, New Jersey was the epicenter for the international professional cycling circuit. Though the era is long forgotten, professional cycling was a major spectator sport in New Jersey in the early years of the 20th century. The Nutley track—a one-seventh of a mile wooden saucer—was built three years after the Newark Velodrome closed. In addition to cycling events, the Nutley Velodrome also hosted several boxing matches and midget-car races.
The velodrome was located on the north side of Park Avenue near River Road. The site today is occupied by the Nutley Parks and Recreation Building and Father Glotzbach Memorial Park. Due to a variety of economic and social factors, the sport of professional track cycling began a steep decline in the late 1920s. Though initially it was successful, the Nutley Velodrome eventually suffered from this downward trend, which was manifested in a dramatic drop in fan attendance. When the track closed its gates for the final time on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1940, it marked the end of the golden age of professional bicycle racing in the United States. Two years later, the track was demolished. In subsequent years, Nutley commissioners acquired the velodrome property and developed a public park and a Little League baseball field for the township’s Avondale neighborhood.
For more information on the June 4 anniversary events, visit the Nutley Historical Society’s Web site (www.nutleyhistoricalsociety.org).
Excerpt from “The Golden Age of Bicycle Racing in New Jersey”:
The Nutley Sun’s June 2, 1933, edition carried the headline “Bike World Luminaries Will Open New Velodrome Sunday Afternoon.” The Nutley Velodrome opened on Sunday, June 4, 1933, at 3 p.m. before a standing-room-only crowd of 12,000 cycling fans. Joe Miele’s saucer was heralded as a worthy successor to the Newark Velodrome. Mayor Reinheimer fired the gun to start the featured 25-mile “Inaugural Stakes” race, which was won by Brooklyn cyclist Paul Croley. He received a silver loving cup from the mayor for his victory. The race was a “motor-pace” competition, which was touted as the premier event at the velodrome. Croley was pared with motorcycle rider Thomas Grimm of Maplewood.
The Oct. 20, 1933 edition of The Sun recapped the successful first season at the Nutley Velodrome. The track had an overall attendance of 297,000 for 35 meets, with $60,000 paid out in prizes and salaries. Grandstand tickets were 75 cents, while boxed and reserved seats were $1. A big event of the 1933 season was when 28-year-old George Dempsey of Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 20, won the national five-mile pro championship. His competitors included Cecil Walker and Harris Horder, two other Australian riders, and California cyclist Norman Hill.
Stopping in to say hi? Want to tell everyone about last weekend's ride? Then do it here!
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