Dayton House Resort is just a short distance to where these races once were held. If you are visiting Myrtle Beach and a guest here at the Dayton House, you can take a stroll and see if you can find where the Washington Track was located. This was truly one of the first attractions to the Myrtle Beach area.
Local resident Billy Roberts remembers when there weren’t many multi-colored high rises that dot the coastline just blocks from his home on 28th Avenue. He hasn't moved far from that spot for most of his 80-plus years.
Not far from his home, was the racetrack that once brought over 5,000 and he was lucky enough to be at the first race, held at night, when he was just six years old.
Located where the intersection of Oak Street and 21st Avenue North meet, and the former site of the Myrtle Square Mall. The half-mile, dirt-covered, wood-railed track had grandstand seating for over 5,200 spectators, and Roberts went to the first race, a night race, when he was just six years old. He remembers when trainers would take their horses down by the ocean and work them out daily. One of the best parts of the racetrack was the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
One fun fact is that the Washington Track was noted as being the first track to introduce the horses and drivers by name in the post parade. That would be something really cool to see.
The grandstand was constructed completely of steel and held 5,200 people while it provided a clear view of the races from every seat. It was also noted as being the first track to introduce the horses and drivers by name in the post parade. But probably its best attribute was having the Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop.
In 1947, the State of South Carolina banned track betting and this stopped hosting races, but still hosted trainers and some forms of harness racing until the early 1950s.
Then NASCAR came onto the scene, and some of the early stars of the still-young sport spent time making laps at the track. Then motorsports moved for good out to Myrtle Beach Speedway on U.S. Highway 501 when it opened by the end of the 1950s.
This short-lived racetrack is now something of the past, but the memories still live on.
Visionaries are dreamers with money and that’s just what brothers Paul and Parrot Hardy of Mullins, S.C., were when they intended to make Myrtle Beach the center of the harness racing world back in 1938.
Despite all the building and growth Myrtle Beach has seen over the decades since the track closed, as is customary with many “ghost tracks," there are still remnants of the original clay track visible (and walkable) more than 60 years later behind the Wells Fargo Bank on 2110 Oak Street near the corner of 21st Avenue.
Enjoy a little fun history about the Myrtle Beach area, and then head back to the Dayton House Resort and reflect upon what it once was and now what it has become.