The Original Circuit: 1948 - 1952, Self Guided Tour
The Original Circuit: 1948 - 1952 Self Guided Tour
American road racing was revived at Watkins Glen, NY on October 2, 1948, the first road race run since before World War II. The 6.6 mile circuit ran through the village streets, starting and ending in front of the Schuyler County Court House. To close the public roads for the event, it was necessary to have permits from six governmental entities; the state, county, village, Town of Reading, Town of Dix and the New York State Parks Commission.
It was also necessary to have a permit from the New York Central Railroad to stop the trains during the race, as the course crossed the tracks. The circuit was used for races from 1948 through 1952. Unchanged, it may be toured today as public roads. For those who were here in the early days, it is a sentimental journey. For those who have never been here, it is a lesson in motor racing history.
The landmarks listed below are also on our Map of the Original Circuit.
1988: The Watkins-Montour Rotary Club establish the yellow brick posts at the Start/Finish line of the original circuit commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first Watkins Glen Grand Prix race.
1989: The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Historical Committee, working with the village, New York State Parks Commission and Watkins Glen International, develop the three panels of historical racing information at the Start/Finish line.
1990: Through the courtesy of the Glen Region of the Sports Car Club of America and in cooperation with the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Historical Committee, eight historical signs are placed on the original 6.6 mile circuit. The signs closely duplicate the original signs placed there in 1950 by the New York State Highway Dept.
THE GOAL of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Historical Committee is to preserve the history of road racing at Watkins Glen, particularly the history of the 6.6 mile circuit and its relationship to the Village of Watkins Glen.
THE TOUR: Starting at the Start/Finish line on Franklin Street, drive 1/4 mile to Old Corning Hill Road, turn right, continue up the steep hill and bear to the right onto Townsend Road through White House S to School House Corner, take a sharp right downhill to cross Cornett's Stone Bridge, and continue on following the Serpentine Road to Archy Smith's Corner, turn right down the straight, over the railroad tracks leading to a mile long descent into the village, and turn right onto Franklin Street, back to the Start/Finish Line.
WHITE HOUSE "S" is located 1.3 miles from the start/finish line. It marks a series of uphill curves near where a white house stood in 1948. The house no longer exists. The name takes poetic license from White House Corner at the LeMans circuit in France.
THE COLLIER MONUMENT is located 2.3 miles from the start/finish line. It is a huge native granite boulder on which a bronze plaque bears the legend:
"Samuel Carner Collier 1912- 1950
SCHOOL HOUSE CORNER is located 2.7 miles from the start/finish line at the start of the dramatic, abrupt descent into the state park. On a knoll on the southwest corner is a structure that was once a one-room schoolhouse in 1948. Remodeled, it is now a private residence.
CORNETT'S STONE BRIDGE is 3 miles from the start/finish line. In the 1948 Junior Prix, Denver Cornett flipped his MG into the creek. He rolled it over, borrowed parts from his fellow competitors and was ready to race in the Grand Prix, finishing 7th.
ARCHY SMITH'S CORNER is located 3.7 miles from the start/finish line. The stucco house on the corner belonged to a dairy farmer named Archy Smith.
RAILROAD STRAIGHT is 4 miles from the start/finish line. It was a dirt road in 1948. Beyond the trees lining the road on the south side is a sheer cliff drop direct to the bottom of the Glen. Cars went at maximum speed on this stretch, braking for the bump at the rail road tracks, often resulting in an airborne vehicle.
FRIAR'S CURVE is 5 miles from the start/finish line, beginning the descent into the village. It receives its romantic name as it borders land owned by the Franciscan Brothers.
BIG BEND is 5.4 miles from the start/finish line. It offers a breathtaking view of Seneca Lake harbor. It offered a breath-taking experience for the driver with speeds exceeding maximum on the downhill descent.
MILLIKEN'S CORNER is 6.2 miles from the start/finish line. It was here, in 1948, that William Milliken of Buffalo overturned his Bugatti. He crawled out, unharmed, to the applause of spectators across the street.
START FINISH LINE - On Franklin Street accross the street from the courthouse is the marker showing the actual location of those first starts in 48 - 52.