Max Schaefer, the general manager of the Monroe Cheese company and later president of the Velveeta Cheese Company wasn’t just an important Monroe NY cheese executive, but he was also an influential force behind the formation of the Monroe Racetrack Association.
The association originally purchased approximately 21 acres of land between Route 17M and the Erie Railroad line in Monroe, and they then constructed a one-half mile racetrack and viewing bleachers. Monroe was the fourth racetrack in the Orange County circuit, which included racetracks in Endicott, Middletown, Goshen and Monroe.
Some highlights of the racetrack history include:
On August 8, 1908, 2,200 people attended the first ever Monroe NY race. The winning horse was Patsy Grady, and Patsy trotted a mile in 2:18 1/2, which was considered a great speed on the new course.
In 1910, a seventy five foot grandstand that could accommodate 1,000 people was added, and around the same time, an additional seven acres were purchased to enable easier access to the track.
In 1911, a desire to improve the track even more led to the enlargement of the grandstand to seat 1500 people. The track now included a very large and colorful grandstand, a infield gazebo, judges’ stand, horse stalls and equipment sheds.
In 1911, a new world’s record of 2:04 1/4 was set at the Monroe NY track, as the horse Directum I set a track record for a one mile pace on the half-mile track.
In 1915, news reports stated that the Monroe races opened with the finest list of racehorses ever seen in the state. The Erie railroad even ran special trains from Juersey City and back to accommodate the increase in interested patrons.
In 1916, the racetrack had an even more impressive showing, with 45 horses entered for four races, while a Pittsburgh race at the same time had only fourteen horses in attendance. The newspapers indicated this was a great feat for Monroe NY.
In 1922, 279 horses were entered into seventeen heats.
In 1926, two horses captured world records at the Monroe track. A two year old trotter, Ruth M. Chenault, and a three year old trotter Peter Maltbie.
In 1927, the last races were held.
Unfortunately, the Monroe track was dropped from the Orange County Circuit after the 1927 races. It was replaced by a brand new racetrack in Elmira, which had a grandstand that could seat 5,000 people. The lack of the annual race in Monroe resulted in financial problems for the racing association; the track property was eventually foreclosed and the association dissolved in 1929.
All that is left of the racetrack that was once a lively spot for wonderful racehorses and thousands of people is an historical sign.
More information is available at the The Monroe Historical Society page.