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Ashland Historical Society

"Preserving the Past"
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Raceland

 

Occasionally, I like to take a look around Ashland and try to envision what the town looked like “way back when”. We all know that Ashland is a relatively new town compared to Framingham, Holliston and Hopkinton, but we also know that Ashland is comprised of these three elder towns: equal parts of Framingham and Hopkinton, and a smaller part of Holliston. What this means is that prior to1846, if you were just looking around, you might be standing in Framingham. Where our borders today are clearly defined, Framingham is where we will visit today.

I was always impressed with the big stone walls along Salem End Rd, Badger Rd, and Singletary Lane .Behind these walls is the former Macomber estate. Purchased by John R. Macomber in 1918 and known as Raceland, the property was used for a variety of purposes. It hosted car shows, horse shows, a goat show (that must have been interesting), and eventually racing. Macomber moved his horses and dogs to the estate in 1925, and after a two day race at the Brookline Country Club in 1927 he sponsored an event which included racing and steeplechases. 1,500 owners and horses from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania participated. The literature listed the attendance as “15,00”, a misprint for sure, as I doubt it could have hosted 15,000!

Anyway, racing was in full swing from 1928 to 1934. It featured such outstanding horses as “Land Boy”, “Canterbury”, and Macomber’s horse “Redbridge”. It wasn’t all glory though. The building burned in 1931 killing Macomber’s dogs, and it was a total loss. A new brick building was built to replace it, but by 1934 interest in joint meets between the Brookline Country Club and Macomber started to wane, and the state had passed a law making pari-mutuels  mandatory at all races which in effect, shortened the revenue.. The last race was in 1934. Six years later in 1940, a six-hole golf course was built on the steeplechase course.

 Mr. and Mrs. Neyhart became caretakers of the property, and by a provision in Macomber’s will, they were tenants until their deaths. Macomber was a bachelor with no apparent heirs.

Little changed at the estate from the 40’s until the S.P.C.A. inherited the property in 1971, and the Framingham Dog Pound took over the kennels where Macomber used to keep his Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. The Town of Framingham now maintains a portion of estate for conservation purposes, with hiking trails and scenic views of Stearns Reservoir.

It must have been grand in its time. I remember looking over the stone wall and seeing the remnants of the race track as it rounded the corner. It was only a faint imprint in the lawn, but it was still there. There are houses there now, and the property looks more like the other upscale neighborhoods of Salem End Rd. The glory of Raceland is all but a memory now.

 

Sources:

 

(1) The Town of Framingham website: http://www.framinghamma.gov/365/Macomber

(2) Virginia Lucier, The South Middlesex Sunday News June 1, 1975

 

Steve Leacu for Directions

January 2016