The Fort George Hill Climb, 1907, The Automobile.
“How fast can your car make the ascent of Fort George Hill? The hill is 1,900 feet from base to crown, with a grade ranging from ten to thirteen per cent and averaging about eleven per cent. It is paved with cobblestones and has two sweeping curves. “ (New York Herald, March 15, 1908)
The Fort George Hill Climb
On a Saturday morning in the summer of 1907 several thousand spectators, speed freaks and reporters gathered on Dyckman Street, near the foot of Fort George Hill, to witness a controversial race that would pit newly designed automobiles against one of the most grueling inclines in the metropolis.
The rules were simple.
Almost anyone could enter the race.
Professional roadsters competed alongside individual owners.
Modified automobiles were forbidden.
New York Times, July 14, 1907.
The only vehicles allowed in the contest were “stock” cars; meaning the vehicle hadn’t been altered in any way after leaving the showroom.
The event was essentially a public proving ground for a then fledgling automobile industry.
After the race a consumer could walk into any automobile dealership and know just how his intended purchase would perform when put to the test.
New York Times, July 21, 1907.
Over the course of the afternoon similarly priced vehicles would compete against one another.
But the most exciting event of the day was the free-for-all in which all makes and sizes competed against one another.
One by one each driver was given a flying start down Dyckman Street and timed as he screamed past the Dyckman Street subway station towards the finish line at the summit of the hill above.
The run was a race against the clock.
At the end of the day the contestants would gather inside a concert hall atop the great hill where course clerk Tom Hall would present the beautiful silver Automobile Topics Cup to the racer with the fastest time.
The event, organized by the Metropolitan Automobile Association, would be the first hill climb to be held in the city of New York
The spectators, who arrived by car, subway and trolley were said to number at least three thousand.
In all, twenty-seven cars would make it to the top of the hill that spring day more than a century ago. Of these only five were foreign imports.
Dyckman Street at base of Fort George Hill in turn of the century postcard.
View from Dyckman Street towards Fort George Hill today.
The Dyckman region, with the exception of the elevated subway, would be almost unrecognizable to anyone vising the district today.
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