(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
We've all heard of Atco Raceway and perhaps have even been to some of their races. But who ever heard of Amatol?
The most colorful of war boom towns in Atlantic County was Amatol, which during World War I blossomed as a munitions depot and ordnance plant. This industry employed thousands of workers, who built homes and started a town, much like the Levittowns after WWII. Following the armistice in 1918, the plant shut down suddenly and the work force scattered.
In 1926, an industrialist named Charles M. Schwab decided to build a speedway there as a rival to the Indianapolis 500 Speedway. He poured more than a million dollars into the project, and a wooden track was built, the largest in the country.
The first race was on May 1, 1926, which drew a record crowd. Amatol's many events drew outstanding drivers of the times from all over the country. As many as seventy-five cars competed in single races. One of the last big events was a combined stock car and motorcycle card of races on May 30, 1928.
After this grand start it looked as though Amatol had its second lease on life. However, racing never lasted beyond the second year. Schwab lost interest, and the track was leased to auto companies as testing grounds. The big oval fell into disrepair, was abandoned and eventually in 1933 it was torn down.
Today there is not a single piece of wood left from the original structure. All you will find is a desolate sandy road. Sad.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.