Chestnut Grove Raceway

 

A race car speeds around the dirt track of the Chestnut Grove Raceway. Cora Arkelin collection.

A race car speeds around the dirt track of the Chestnut Grove Raceway. Cora Arkkelin collection.

On a muggy Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1951, a dust cloud rose to the west of The Strip and the thunder of V-8 engines gulping gasoline rippled through the village. The first heat of the auto racing season was under way at Chestnut Grove Speedway.

The quarter-mile dirt track was built on property owned by Lewis Kopp, who, in 1940, purchased the 478-acre Chestnut Grove as an investment for his children. The brainchild of race car driver Wallace Arkkelin, the speedway was financed with $10,000 from two racing friends; one of whom backed out before construction got under way.

Using the village’s road grader, cable salvaged from a shipyard and discarded railroad ties and telephone poles, Arkkelin and friends built the dirt track. At the conclusion of the first day of racing, the other investor demanded his capital, and Kopp chipped in $5,000 to keep the venture open. Competition from other speedways and liability insurance woes closed the
Chestnut Grove Speedway midway through the 1952 season.

It was a short-lived but fun venture.

Closing the racetrack did not keep the Arkkelin family from driving. Cora went on to race in many powder puff events.

Closing the racetrack did not keep the Arkkelin family from driving. Cora went on to race in many powder puff events.


Our guests remember:

Chestnut Grove

My extended family and I vacationed at Chestnut Grove from 1948-1964. Being from McKeesport, it was a dream come true to go there every summer. I currently live in Michigan but go back occasionally. Not too long ago, I found a post card of some of the cottages where the swings and horseshoe pit were and a local artist is making me a 24×36 painting of it. I can't wait to see it! So many wonderful memories and so few things left as reminders. It is nice to know that others still remember and care.

Michelle Turner ( a Chestnut Grove Kid)

Idle-A-While

We vacationed every summer at Idle-A-While in the late '50s and early '60s, partially because my aunt was the receptionist there. I often got to ring the bell summoning guests to breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room, which was staffed by co-eds from various universities. Evenings were spent playing bingo, fascination and other games on the strip or bridge and poker back at Idle-A-While. Great memories.
John Bloom

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