I’ve been cataloguing a collection of photographs representing the professional work of Cypen Lubitsh and Jack Bungarz. They operated Lubitsh and Bungarz, a photographic studio in Wilmington from ca. 1950 until 1989. I opened a folder to describe it for the on-line cataloguing project and could hardly believe my eyes! Here was an aerial view labeled Dover Downs. But what I saw in this view from about 50 years ago blew my mind- what changes time has wrought! These days, a racing weekend at the Dover International Speedway means busy lunch counters and hotel/motel rooms all across the state. Here was a view of a well-groomed track in the middle of almost nothing. A few horses trot around the track but where is the giant monster holding a truck in the air, where are the lots of trailers parked for a race weekend, where are the slots, casino games and hotel? And, where is Route 1 that passes so close to the rear of the track?!! Wow! (For those of us who have been around, it is easy to remember the track before it was “really big” with slots and the 46’ tall giant monster statue. This stunning view was taken before the outside, racing track was built, and maybe even dreamed about. Today the complex covers 750 acres.
The track opened in 1969 as America’s first multi-purpose sports complex and remains that still today. It’s busy schedule from opening day in 1969 included thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing on the interior 5/8 mile oval and world-class auto racing on the outside one-mile track. The concrete auto racing track boasted a new design called “variable degree” which helped drivers transition from flat straights to high-banked turns. This new design allowed for drivers to reach unprecedented speeds on the one-mile track, earning it the nickname “The Monster Mile.” It is fiercely known to have destroyed cars and driver’s hopes, an alternate definition of “monster.”
Who says history at the Delaware Historical Society is boring. Ha!