top of page
Racing Banner v3b.jpg

Racing in Bridgehampton can trace its roots back to the turn of the 19th century. Over 100 years of racing history “courses” through the community. The men and women who have supported automobile racing in the community helped establish Bridgehampton not only as one of the top national locations for the sport but also a major contender on an international level.

The Bridgehampton Museum is honored to have the opportunity to help honor the history and tell the many stories of these races, racers, and countless people that were involved. Bridgehampton Racing: The Legacy is an ongoing revolving (and evolving) exhibition covering the years 1915-1997 and is undertaken in collaboration with the Bridgehampton Racing Heritage Group and their members, families, and friends. Together we aim to capture and distill the energy and exhilaration of racing while preserving its rich tradition and impact it has had on Bridgehampton' heritage and cultural landscape.

1915 model T.jpg
Herb Cooper in the "Mecox Flyer", a modified Model-T Ford, with Howard Halsey, Francis McCaslin. They helped build the Mecox Flyer and went on to found Bridgehampton's first Ford Agency.
The storied history of Bridgehampton racing begins near the turn of the 19th century. As in many other small villages across America, events were held regularly in Bridgehampton to raise funds for community projects. In Bridgehampton, townspeople organized an annual Firemen's Carnival, usually held in July. The menu of attractions varied from year to year, and in 1915, an automobile race was featured. Two seventeen-year-olds from Amagansett didn't know what they were starting that July, when they won the first Firemen's' Festival Auto Race in a cut-down Ford Model-T.
What happened over the course of the next century would become the stuff of legend.
A three-mile course, laid out mostly on dirt roads, started and finished on Bridgehampton's Main Street, heading west. It turned left, heading south on Halsey Lane at what was known as Shanahan's Corner. This, the longest straight on the course, ended with a left turn onto Paul's Lane, heading east through farm fields. At Ocean Road, the circuit turned left, heading north back to Main Street where another left turn led to the Start/Finish line.
The course began and ended in front of the Bridgehampton Museum's Historic Nathaniel Rogers House Property. 
Untitled street race 1900s2.gif

1915-1921 Bridgehamton Race Circuit
web image 1915 race winner.jpg
The 1915 Bridgehampton race-winning Pope-Hartford driven by Maynard Parsons passing another Pope in trouble.
Essentially a local event, the race attracted entries primarily from Bridgehampton. Contestants from East Hampton, just 10 miles away, were considered "outsiders". As the prizes were of low value, the cars were not current racing machines but mostly older, stripped tourings or roadsters. Pope-Hartfords of the 1909-1912 era and Model T Fords predominated in the small field of entrants, some competing with home-built contraptions.
The racing took place on Saturday, July 24, 1915, the final day of the Firemen's Carnival that year. The program, as planned, consisted of two automobile and two motorcycle races, with each category running a five-lap and a twelve-lap race. Those races, that continued each year through 1921. In 1921, enthusiasm for racing had temporarily waned as young drivers went on to other interests, and as resistance to racing on public roads arose.
For whatever reason, the sport faded until after WWII. That's when young veterans like Bruce Stevenson and John Fitch returned from experiences in Europe, where sports car racing was just beginning, with their own (usually) MG's and an urge to race them.
With the support of the Bridgehampton Lions Club, Stevenson, formed his own organization and planned the Bridgehampton Sports Car Races for 1949 on the town's public roads. The first event created a big stir in the motorsports world and attracted important owners and drivers from all over the US and Europe. It was considered the coming sport of the elite despite the fact that many of the owner/drivers were their own mechanics and far from the wealthy "elite."
LIFE and LOOK magazines covered the event, which gave it national attention, and Bridgehampton began to become famous.
1949 race start.jpg
Finish of 1949 event
Crowded Conditions in the Paddock 1950
photo: Long Island Automotive Museum
The annual races were held in 1949 through 1953 drawing wider attention and greater prestige with each year. The crowds grew from 20,000 to 50,000 for one weekend a year, overwhelming the local population of fewer than 1,000 residents. No doubt a lot of visitors got their first taste of The Hamptons with their visit to the races at the end of Long Island. Through motoring and sports magazines and national newspaper coverage, fans all over the US and beyond began to know and recognize the name Bridgehampton.
But a driver fatality and an accident involving a spectator, along with similar incidents at another race venue at Watkins Glen, New York, brought an end to it when New York State declared racing on public roads prohibited. The Lions Club and racing supporters took this as a challenge, and began a search for land to create a purpose-built enclosed race circuit.
 In 1957 they opened Bridgehampton Race Circuit on Millstone Road, just outside of Bridgehampton. Privately owned and operated but with enthusiastic public support through the sale of stock, the track was ingeniously designed on 600 acres of what had been 38 individual "wood lots" acquired for $32,000.
The 2.85 miles long track was comprised of 9 very fast corners and would ultimately be appreciated by drivers and fans as one of the best road courses in the world. The track's first race was held in September 1957, an amateur Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) event. It was won by two Briggs Cunningham-entered Jaguar D-types driven by Walt Hansgen and Charlie Wallace. Third place was taken by Phil Hill in a Ferrari; Hill would go on to eventually become the first American Formula 1 world champion.
new circuit map - web2.jpg

Detail of the Bridgehampton Race Track
 The next 13 years saw the Circuit host the best of world sports car racing, first with SCCA Nationals, the best of the country's then-amateur drivers. When so-called amateur racing began the transition to professional teams and drivers, the track followed the move with the Double 500, US Road Racing Championships, Can-Am, Trans-Am and even NASCAR stock car races. During those years the track saw many of the world's top drivers; Mario Andretti, who ran his first road race there; Phil Hill, Walt Hansgen, Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue, Richard Petty, Pedro Rodriguez and celebrities including racing enthusiast Paul Newman, Geraldo Rivera, John Oates all took their turns doing laps.
Paul Newman at Bridgehampton Race Circuit
Photo by Rocco Liccardi
But as in most professional sports, the economics of racing, with bigger purses, television and major sponsorships were beyond Bridgehampton's capabilities. The last Trans-Am race was staged in 1970 while the Can-Am for that year was cancelled as unaffordable by BRRC, who were the developers and owners of the track.
But Bridgehampton's role in racing didn't end with the 1970 Trans-Am. The following year, BRRC leased the track to a group of young enthusiasts, Bridgehampton Racing Group, who vowed to bring it back to prominence. They would not allow the circuit and its legacy to be lost to history.
imagery of official program for 1970 Marlboro Trans-Am
image courtesy of the BRHG website
The Bridgehampton Racing Group continued to hold amateur races on the track through the 1970s and into the beginning of the following decade. In the early 1980s, the Bridgehampton Racing Circuit found a new supporter, and ultimately steward, in the form of veteran Wall Street trader and avid car collector, Robert M. Rubin. 
Mr. Rubin sought to continue the races on the circuit and hold vintage car events akin to those held on the west coast in Laguna Seca in Monterey California. Despite some push-back from local residents, amateur races and events were held on the circuit until 1997. 
Bridgehampton Race Circuit taken in 1984
image courtesy of the BRHG website
Despite a valiant battle to keep the Bridgehampton Race Circuit open and operational (as a racing venue), in 1998 approval was given to transform the site into a private golf club, The Bridge. Although debated among residence and racing enthusiasts alike, the golf course became the most viable alternative to preventing the race circuit and it’s storied history from being lost to developers wanting to construct yet another subdivision.
Owned and run by Mr. Rubin, The Bridge preserves many of the most important areas and elements of the original race circuit and the clubhouse displays historical artwork and objects further helping to maintain the legacy of the Bridgehampton Racing Circuit and the rich history of racing in our area. 
The main straightaway, November, 2007. At the point where the shadow of the Chevron Bridge falls across the straight. The pits and paddock were on the left, where the fairway is now. 
photo courtesy of the BRHG website
The Bridgehampton Museum in collaboration with the Bridgehampton Racing Heritage Group, The Bridge, and Mr. Rubin, continue to preserve and honor the men and women who helped to make Bridgehampton Racing the international juggernaut that it was, through annual events such as Cars & Coffee at our Corwith House property each fall.
We look forward to continuing to safeguard this legacy for future generations through our evolving and ever expanding exhibition program and archive.
Cars & Coffee Event
image courtesy of "The Bridge" website
Untitled - March 29, 2024 11.04.11 (3).png


bottom of page