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Where Buffalo Speedway Got Its Name

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Does anyone know how this street got its quirky name? I assume the "Buffalo" part is from the bayou. But "Speedway?" What's up with that? Anyone have the history?

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Does anyone know how this street got its quirky name? I assume the "Buffalo" part is from the bayou. But "Speedway?" What's up with that? Anyone have the history?

I've always wondered that myself. Especially considering the lack of a speedy way.

Is anyone familiar with whether or not there is another Speedway in the Houston area (or anywhere else, for that matter).

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Does anyone know how this street got its quirky name? I assume the "Buffalo" part is from the bayou. But "Speedway?" What's up with that? Anyone have the history?

from a 1997 chron article:

http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive....id=1997_1398054

Buffalo Speedway first appeared on city maps in the early 1920s, extending south from Bissonnet through an abbreviated version of West University Place. At that time of burgeoning modern transportation, Houston's landscape was dotted with small airports and - you guessed it - speedways for race cars.

One speedway, according to historian and retired land researcher Ann Quin Wilson, passed near the site of today's Lamar High School. In those days, Allen Parkway, all the way from downtown to the tip end of Kirby, was called Buffalo Drive and ran near this speedway. Wilson suspects the street called Buffalo Speedway, which would have run on the other side of the track, got its name from a combination of the racetrack and Buffalo Drive.

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Austin has a street named Speedway that runs north/south and is west of Red River St--I think it's the street in front of Jester and the Gregory Gymnasium. Maybe 'speedway' was the old term for 'expressway', meaning non-stop.

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Here's another thought: Is 'Speedway' part of the name or its designation? Some Old Spanish Trail street signs identify it as "OLD SPANISH Tr' (caps intentional, like FANNIN St., or RICHMOND Ave.) Are there signs that say BUFFALO Spwy.? In Austin, the name of the street is (I think) SPEEDWAY with no designation.

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Corny but true...

Back in the late 60s when I was in college, I was driving around a group of friends from Florida. As we passed the Buffalo Speedway exit of the Southwest Freeway, one of them said, "Buffalo Speedway, what time do they race?"

I just looked at her stunned and said, "What?"

"The buffalo," she said.

As a native Houstonian, the name of the street had never registered with me. My grandmother lived in West University, and we drove down Buffalo Speedway all the time.

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Here's another thought: Is 'Speedway' part of the name or its designation? Some Old Spanish Trail street signs identify it as "OLD SPANISH Tr' (caps intentional, like FANNIN St., or RICHMOND Ave.) Are there signs that say BUFFALO Spwy.? In Austin, the name of the street is (I think) SPEEDWAY with no designation.

There is a proper abbreviation for Speedway, although I can't remember the precise mix of letters.

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I don't think I can post it right now, but there is a 1913 map that shows specific buildings that has been posted on the board before. On the map there is a large dotted-line oval on Westheimer near what is today the intersection of Buffalo Speedway. I wondered before what that was. Perhaps it was the speedway?

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I lived at the corner of Buffalo Speedway and Holcombe/Bellaire for a few years. When my folks would come in to visit they always commented on how terribly bumpy it is headed south toward 610. Eventually my dad nick-named it "Buffalo Speedbump" :)

That road is so bumpy that an actual structural part of the suspension on my car (solid steel) sheared off driving that road every day.

flipper

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OK, here is the map I was talking about. See the oval south of Alabama and west of Reynolds (Kirby)? Is that the Buffalo Speedway?

houston_sw21.jpg

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OK, here is the map I was talking about. See the oval south of Alabama and west of Reynolds (Kirby)? Is that the Buffalo Speedway?

that would fit the bill...right across the street from lamar hs.

One speedway, according to historian and retired land researcher Ann Quin Wilson, passed near the site of today's Lamar High School.

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I heard that the reason its so bumpy on Buffalo Speedway south of Holcombe is because that's where the Army Corp of engineers dumped all the extra fill from Buffalo Bayou, when they dredged it. Very unstable. Also explains why there are lots of homes with foundation problems in homes around the Bayou.

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Austin has a street named Speedway that runs north/south and is west of Red River St--I think it's the street in front of Jester and the Gregory Gymnasium. Maybe 'speedway' was the old term for 'expressway', meaning non-stop.

I think there is a connection between these two. I do not know the history of buffalo speedway, but I know that the speedway in austin was part of Jac Gubbels park and boulevard system, which included 15th, and I think 12th, lamar boulevard and shoal creek park. Park and boulevard systems were designed to promote leisure transportation and recreation, and were a standard feature in urban planning from about 1890 till the 1930s.

Speedway was an earlier term than freeway, and contemporary with parkway, which originally meant a linear park with a recreational road. The implication of speedway was that you could do up to 35 mph (the top speed of early autos, so like parkways, they included a design speed. The notion was that the road would not have intersections at every block so that the early auto could achieve its speed potential. However the term was replaced by freeway in the 1930s.

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Kind of funny that you can't even drive at the top speed of early cars on parts of Buffalo Speedway.

On all of the sign's I've seen, Speedway is abreviated to SPDWY.

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Guest danax
Speedway was an earlier term than freeway, and contemporary with parkway, which originally meant a linear park with a recreational road. The implication of speedway was that you could do up to 35 mph (the top speed of early autos, so like parkways, they included a design speed. The notion was that the road would not have intersections at every block so that the early auto could achieve its speed potential. However the term was replaced by freeway in the 1930s.

There's also a main road in Tucson, AZ named simply Speedway. Thanks for the info.

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There has been some discussions in the Chronicle Archives on where the name of the street Buffalo Speedway came from Chron

Well I think I may have found a clue. While on google earth 2 nights ago I found a 1944 map of Houston with this on it.

Picture5.png

It's right where Pershing Middle school is today. If you turn off the road layers you will see this track was before the streets Buffalo Speedway and Stella Link existed.

Would be nice to find the history of this track. Was it a horse racing track or a auto racing track? It looks kind of large to be a horse racing track tho.

Edited by blue92

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I asked my dad (he's 86 and grew up in West University) if he knew what it was. He didn't remember it at all, but he told me that the building on the southwest corner of Bellaire and Stella Link was National Instruments, where he worked at the end of the war.

I agree that it looks like it's probably for auto racing, especially when you look at the large area it covers.

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This has been discussed here before, I think. If not here then I've definitely read about that track somewhere and, yes, it said that that's how Buffalo Speedway got its name. it was a stock car track.

I think Buffalo Speedway and Stella Link date to before the war though. I'll look at Historic Aerials and some old maps later.

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This has been discussed here before, I think. If not here then I've definitely read about that track somewhere and, yes, it said that that's how Buffalo Speedway got its name. it was a stock car track.

I think Buffalo Speedway and Stella Link date to before the war though. I'll look at Historic Aerials and some old maps later.

Stella Link was there in 1944, Buffalo Speedway wasn't.

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Buffalo Speedway appears to be either planned or at least a dirt road in 1914 (I don't see a key to know what the dashed paths mean).

txu-pclmaps-topo-tx-bellaire-1915.jpg

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Here Buffalo Speedway runs from Westpark to Bellaire Blvd. in 1920 and already had the name.

houstonwards1920.jpg

Edited by FIREhat

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So I guess my point is that maybe the name doesn't have anything to do with that racetrack. Perhaps there was another farther north? Or maybe it has nothing to do with a race track at all.

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Stella Link was there in 1944, Buffalo Speedway wasn't.

I spent sometime today between Google Earth and Historic Aerials comparing the size of this track to the old Meyer's Speedway out on S.Main & Hillcroft, what I discovered is that the inside oval on this track and Meyer's Speedway are roughly the same size. I'm wondering if it was a track that pre-WW2 IndyCar type cars raced on or was it a test track for a tire company.

I did see that Sella Link was there but it doesn't look like a paved road, kind of like West Belt during the mid 70s was there but was a white shell gravel road. Between 76-78 I used to drive West Belt twice a week from Westheimer to Ailef. it was rough but cut off 45 minutes getting to Southwest Houston for me.

As far as it being a stock car track I don't really think there was any stock car racing with pre-WW2 automobiles. Nascar racing didn't get started until 1949.

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NASCAR may not have, but stock car racing dates to Prohibition. Stock cars still race on dirt tracks across the country, including in Harris County.

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There's still a little of the track peeking out by Mark Twain Elementary in 1953. That may be HFD Station 37 under construction there in the V below the merging of the inner and outer tracks.

ScreenShot2011-10-02at93812PM.png

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I wasn't clear in my earlier post that Buffalo Speedway didn't exist South of Bellaire Blvd.in 1944. It did run from Westpark to Bellaire. The topo map does show a race track on Westheimer near the path of Buffalo Speedway, so that may be where the track was.

The big track on the Pershing Jr High site is about a mile in length. The smaller one is about 3/8 of a mile. I don't see any grandstands or other facilities, but early races were run on pretty rudimentary tracks. The 1953 aerials show the school in place and the houses that were built between 1944 and 1953 as Hosuton expanded in the post war boom. If you don't have Google Earth, it's a great tool for this sort of thing, and we are lucky that Houston seems to have more data available than many other cities.

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So I guess my point is that maybe the name doesn't have anything to do with that racetrack. Perhaps there was another farther north? Or maybe it has nothing to do with a race track at all.

The neighborhood I grew up in was built in the 50s and was built off Buffalo Speedway, Buffalo Speedway being the 1st street of the neighborhood. Our house being in the neighborhood behind Gateway swimming pool. I remember the street Buffalo Speedway (name wise) didn't start till it was south of Belliaire Blvd. to S.Main St. North of Belliaire it was called University St. that ran north to Bissonnet St. In those days Kirby Dr. ended on Holcombe, the only way my mom could get to The Village to shop was up Buffalo Speedway by the big Catholic Church up to University Blvd. and over to the shopping centers there. Sometime in the late 60s they renamed it Buffalo Speedway all the way threw.

So I'm thinking this must have been the race track that the street got it's name from.

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That's news to me then. I've looked at a whole lot of old maps of Houston and West U (I grew up in West U) and have never seen a University Street or any other name for Buffalo Speedway. All the maps show Buffalo Speedway having that name well before the timeframe you mention.

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And here is this:

Another street that people get confused or talk about is Buffalo Speedway. Early legend says

that there was an automobile race track located somewhere south of where St. John’s School is

today on the corner of Westheimer and Buffalo Speedway. The old stock car race tracks that

were located at Arrowhead Park on OST, Playland Park on South Main, and Meyerland are no

longer there. But actually there was never a track on Buffalo Speedway. Mr. Thomas Anderson,

a great historian and a man who passed away here the other day, told me that the street earned its

name when the concrete was first laid there. It was about a mile long strip, and every boy with a

car came out there and decided to race down that street. Thus it picked up the name because it

was a straight street - it was known as Buffalo Speedway

From here (Page 3).

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And here is this:

From here (Page 3).

I think the pic of the track from 1944 just proved Mr. Anderson incorrect. You can clearly see it's there. If you look at the pic of the track I posted you will see it's from Google Earth. If you have Google Earth you can go see it for yourself.

Cool maps you got there. Looks like that area of town I grew up in was called Stella in that 1st map.

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http://houstorian.wo...d-houston-maps/

...a HAIF member's site, tmariar.

http://www.lib.utexa...aps/historical/

...two great locations for maps, the topo. maps are lised by names, in some cases, such as Park Place (one map will have a listing for the next section, on each edge) when they are dividied up, in blocks. I refer to these two map lists all the time.

I recently noticed a Buffalo st. name in one of the old maps, was very close to Downtown. Houstonians were fond of the name. It was my High School mascot, as well, school dates back to the late 1920's.

Edited by NenaE

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I'm with you Blue92. Even though the Heritage article is interesting reading it is not always factual. I've just been scrolling around the article and noticed several false statements. One was that Sheperd Drive was named after some investment banker. This is false, it was clearly named after Sheperd's Dam, being called Shpererd's Dam Road on early maps.

The next false statement I spotted was that Holcombe Blvd. was named after the mayor of Bellaire. Oscar Holcombe was a mayor of Houston, not Bellaire.

The last one I spotted before stopping to type this reply was that the streets in Ravenswood where named after some bird becuuse the delveloper wanted to keep the street names natural sounding. That is incorrect because the developer clearly wanted to capitalize on the site of Sam Houston's campground, before he defeated Santa Ana. An earlier name given to Sam Houston by the indians was The Raven.

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Wasn't Shepard's Dam named after the guy who owned the actual property around the bayou, at that location?

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There has been some discussions in the Chronicle Archives on where the name of the street Buffalo Speedway came from Chron

Well I think I may have found a clue. While on google earth 2 nights ago I found a 1944 map of Houston with this on it.

Picture5.png

It's right where Pershing Middle school is today. If you turn off the road layers you will see this track was before the streets Buffalo Speedway and Stella Link existed.

Would be nice to find the history of this track. Was it a horse racing track or a auto racing track? It looks kind of large to be a horse racing track tho.

It looks kinda like a old auto race track.

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I've heard a theory, (and this may just be people's need to explain things off and look smart) that Buffalo Speedway was planned as a fast route from Buffalo Bayou down to Brays Bayou and beyond, though the lack of that stretch says otherwise, it's not impossible this was it's original intention and to this day from Westheimer on up remains incomplete from the original vision.

Most likely not the case, but I found this theory very interesting and it gets you thinking.

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Both views make sense to me. The Buffalo part coming from the Bayou and the Speedway part coming from the race track. :D

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There has been some discussions in the Chronicle Archives on where the name of the street Buffalo Speedway came from Chron

Well I think I may have found a clue. While on google earth 2 nights ago I found a 1944 map of Houston with this on it.

Picture5.png

It's right where Pershing Middle school is today. If you turn off the road layers you will see this track was before the streets Buffalo Speedway and Stella Link existed.

Would be nice to find the history of this track. Was it a horse racing track or a auto racing track? It looks kind of large to be a horse racing track tho.

buffalospeedway1r.jpg

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It has nothing to do with race cars. The real reason as to why they call it Buffalo Speedway is because when the American Indians were still roaming the area, they ran buffalo down into the bayou to kill them for resources. The whole area was a massive plain way back then, and the bayou was the dividing point between the southside and the northside. It's just named that in reference to it being a hunting ground for, and a method of killing buffalo. They'd chase them down into the gorge, and kill what they needed. Another point to keep in mind is that you can't drive faster than 30 mph down Buffalo Speedway. Lol. The street name is deceptive. Someone did once say that there was a track nearby, but it wasn't a racetrack for cars. The neighborhood that was built where the oval track used to be has zero evidence of there ever being a track there. It has been suggested that there was an athletic field over there. As far as the buffalo being run into the bayou, that's true. I can't find the source since it's been years since I learned this; but I it's valid. Speedways aren't deemed as such in reference to racing. There are other streets in the US referred to as such. When I was a kid, I often wondered where the racecars were, but then I grew up. Lol.

Edited by Jakfuki

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