History of Lakewood Heights
Atlanta 853 is on the loop at Lakewood Park. This loop was later wired for trackless trolley use but only for short turns at the park as the TC line was extended past the park to a loop on Stewart Ave.
More details to be added to this history as they become known…
In the first half of the 20th century Lakewood Heights was established as a residential area populated by many General Motors workers. The neighborhood took its name from a recreation and resort area known as Lakewood Park that later became the old Lakewood Fairgrounds.There is some evidence that Native American communities existed in the South River watershed which runs north/south through the site.
A significant contribution to the area was the Lakewood Speedway, which was a one-mile dirt oval track located on the Southeastern Fairgrounds, around the Poole's Creek Reservoir. At various times, a quarter-mile dirt oval, known as "Little Lakewood", as well as a quarter-mile dirt dragstrip, also operated there. The track was located in off Lakewood Avenue. The Southeastern Fairgrounds were built in 1915 with a one-mile horse track.
The first auto race was a motorcycle race between Ralph DePalma and Barney Oldfield on July 28, 1917. Auto racing continued until October 2, 1941, and resumed after World War II, running from September 2, 1945, through September 3, 1979. The quarter-mile dirt oval operated from July 11, 1946, through 1948, again in 1951, and finally on May 28, 1966. The dragstrip operated from April 24, 1954, though 1957, and was the site of the first organized drag race in Georgia.
Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater, formerly known as the Lakewood Amphitheater, now sits on the old fairground site. Many of the fairgrounds original buildings now house flea market vendors. The concrete grandstands on the front straightaway still remain albeit covered in grass and hedges. The Amphitheater parking lot covers what once were the third and fourth turns. A roadway to the Amphitheater crosses what was Turn Two. The front straightaway is now paved and is used as a part of the road leading out to Lakewood Avenue. Most of the Fairground’s lake has been filled in, and only a small pond in the old Turn One area remains to hint of the original lake.
At the turn of the century, the Lakewood Heights was located just south of the 19th century urbanized Atlanta and the neighborhoods of Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Peoplestown.The area’s development in the early 20th century was secured by three separate, but interrelated, forces:
-Development of commercial uses and a residential neighborhood along Jonesboro Road and its associated streetcar line, and the parallel development of an industrial area, which included a General Motors assembly plant.
-Development of an African-American community adjacent to the Gammon Theological Seminary and Clark University, now the site of Atlanta’s Carver High School.
-Development of the Southeast Regional Fairgrounds on the site of the City’s first waterworks plant along Lakewood Avenue withstreetcar access from downtown Atlanta and subsequent development of large public and private housing projects along Pryor Road.
These communities eventually grew together creating a unique area of population and land use diversity which reached its peakaround 1960 when the construction of the I75/I85 freeway connector and the onset of industrial outmigration began the long process of deterioration.
The last 40 years of decline is not the end of the story! As we seetoday the residents of Lakewood Heights are on the move and want to see their community rise again. One cleanup, one “greenovated“ house, and one street at a time will turn this post industrial neighborhood into a “healthy holistic oasis”!!!!!
Posted by: Brandon Reed
Good day, I hope this message finds all of you well.
My name is Brandon Reed. I am the editor and webmaster of Georgia Racing History.com , as well as being a volunteer at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, Georgia.
It was with much delight that I found your website and read your mission
statement. For far too long, the Lakewood Heights area has been ignored
by bureaucrats and developers alike, and has been allowed to degrade while
many turned their backs. It is refreshing to see a group who wants to
rejuvenate and honor such a historic and important area such as Lakewood.
It's with that in mind that I send you this email. As you want to
rejuvenate and protect the historic areas around Lakewood, myself and
countless others want to protect a very historic spot that has long been
neglected and allowed to waste away.
I was very pleased to read on your history page the information you have
listed about the famed Lakewood Speedway, which was located at the
fairgrounds. Racing historians around the state, myself included, will
tell you in no uncertain terms that Lakewood is the most historic and
important racing facility, bar none, in the history of Georgia motor
Please allow me to share a little expanded background information:
The Lakewood Speedway was constructed in 1916 around the Poole's Creek
Reservoir, which was the first reservoir and home of the first water works
for the city of Atlanta following the civil war.
After the city built a new water works, the Lakewood land, which had
previously been Native American land, was developed into a fairgrounds
facility, complete with a one-mile dirt track for horse racing.
The first motor racing that took place on the track was on July 4, 1917,
featuring motorcycles. The first automobile race held there was on July
28, 1917, featuring a "dirt track champions" match event between two
legendary drivers, Ralph DePalma and Barney Oldfield. DePalma emerged the
winner after a problem with Oldfield's car sent him into the lake.
Motor racing would continue at the facility for the better part of the
next 62 years. Every type of motor racing took place at Lakewood, from
Indy Cars to Stock Cars, from midget cars to motorcycles, from sprint cars
to even speed boats on the lake!
By 1951, Lakewood Speedway was one of the five fastest race tracks in the
country, along with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Langhorne Speedway in
Pennsylvania, the Beach and Road course at Daytona Beach and the
Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
A few highlights from over the years includes:
-Lakewood was the site of the first organized event for what are now
considered stock cars in 1938. The event was won by Georgia Racing Hall
of Fame member Lloyd Seay, considered by many to be the greatest natural
talent behind the wheel.
-Lakewood played host to several Indy Car events over the years, with
drivers such as Ted Horn, Bill Holland, George Conner, Eddie Sachs and
Chitwood visiting victory lane.
-Lakewood was the site of the only dead heat finish ever recorded in AMA
-Lakewood was a long time stop for what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup
division, with winners such as Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Tim
Flock, Fireball Roberts, Herb Thomas, Junior Johnson and Lee Petty.
-Lakewood was the site of one of the most talked about moments in NASCAR
history. On June 14, 1958, Richard Petty was flagged as the winner of the
NASCAR event there in what would have been the first of 200 victories for
him. But the win was protested, and after a check of scoring, it was
found that Richard was credited with one lap more than he should have
been. The win was taken from Richard and given to the person that had
protested - none other than Richard's father, Lee Petty.
There is another reason why the track is very important in the world of
motorsports, though it is not a happy reason. As far as we've found so
far, 14 racers lost their lives at Lakewood Speedway. The track was
treacherous and dangerous, with the first turn cut at a severe angle to
negotiate both the edge of the lake as well as Lakewood Avenue.
Among those that were killed was the defending Indy 500 winner in 1946,
George Robson. Robson was killed, along with Texas driver George
Barringer, in a four-car crash on Lakewood's backstretch (which know
serves as the access road from Lakewood Avenue to the Amphitheater) in an
Indy Car event on Labor Day of 1946.
It's in the memory of Mr. Robson and Mr. Barringer, along with the 12
other people who perished while racing at Lakewood, that we work to honor
the track and all who raced there. To many of us, it's not just the
site of an old race track. Rather, it's more hallowed ground.
The final race at Lakewood was held on Labor Day of 1979. A few years
later, portions of the lake were filled in, and the Amphitheater was built
on portions of the third and fourth turns, doing away with the speedway
It is my hope, and the hope of many others, that some day the remains of
the track will be used as a park or walking/bike riding trail area that
will preserve what precious little is left of the great speedway, and will
allow future generations to learn of what went on there.
This has been done before, mainly using volunteer labor and materials, at
former race tracks located in Hillsboro, North Carolina and Columbia,
Carolina. With all the rich history that Lakewood has, it would be a
tragedy to lose this important part of our heritage.
On August 7 of this year, the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame will hold the
third annual Lakewood Speedway reunion at the Hall in Dawsonville. I
would like to invite you to please attend the event. It will give you an
opportunity to meet some of those people who raced at the great track, and
will also give you a chance to share with those people what you are trying
to do to preserve and rejuvenate the area. I promise you, they are all
concerned about what happens there.
I would also like to meet with you, perhaps during an upcoming meeting, to
formally introduce myself and answer any questions you may have about the
history of the track. My hope is that our goals can become mutual ones,
and that perhaps through the attention we can garner, that we can rebuild
Lakewood Heights and preserve the history of Lakewood Speedway at the same
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to talking to
you very soon.
Thank you again.
Georgia Racing History.com