The Birthplace of Speed

H.T. Thomas, factory expert from the Olds Motor Works, drives The Pirate on the beach in 1903.
H.T. Thomas, factory expert from the Olds Motor Works, drives The Pirate on the beach in 1903.

Soon after the invention of the automobile, Ormond became known as the Birthplace of Speed. Early auto owners were searching for places where they could drive on hard surfaces. Existing roads were no more than horse trails and posed problems for the cars.

In 1902, J.F. Hathaway, a retired businessman, distributed photographs of the beach and sent them to leading automobile journals and newspapers along with a story extolling the hard-packed sand of Ormond Beach as the ideal race course. This information was picked up by William J. Morgan, who was a correspondent for Automobile Magazine. Morgan arrived in Ormond in February 1903 where he met with John Anderson and Joseph Price, managers of the Hotel Ormond. The three men decided that a winter automobile racing event was the perfect promotional tool for the hotel. Morgan secured the help of a hastily formed Daytona and Seabreeze Automobile Association, and the plans were under way.

Race cars outside the Ormond Garage in 1904
Race cars outside the Ormond Garage in 1904

Without much lead time, the turnout for that first race series was small. On March 26, 1903, the first timed trials were held. Entrants were Alexander Winton in his Bullet #1 and H.T. Thomas driving the Ransom E. Olds’ Pirate. That day, the men drove in separate classes, but two days later, they met in the Ormond Challenge Cup. After an exciting race that the Bullet won by one fifth of a second, all agreed that the sands of Daytona and Ormond were the perfect place for racing. Ormond Beach earned its title as the “Birthplace of Speed”.

The newly formed Florida East Coast Automobile Association built a clubhouse at the Silver Beach approach, which became the starting point for runs headed northward.

Ormond Garage replica, dedicated in 2013.
Ormond Garage replica, dedicated in 2013.

The course expanded to include a run all the way to Ponce Inlet and back to Ormond. The Ormond Garage, known as “Gasoline Alley,” was built in 1904 to accommodate the racers and their mechanics. It burned to the ground in 1976, and a plaque commemorates the site at 113 E. Granada Blvd.

Birthplace of Speed Park, commemorating the world’s first time trials, is located where Granada Boulevard S.R. 40) meets the beach. The Motor Racing Heritage Association raised funds to build a small replica of the Ormond Garage in the park.

The park was dedicated March 28, 2013, exactly 110 years after the first race. The garage houses replicas of Bullet #1 and the Pirate automobiles.