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After Prohibition began in Fort Collins in 1896, many people continued looking for places to drink. Prospect Park would become one of those places. The Gentleman's Riding and Driving Club of Prospect Park was a horse racing track and a center of bootlegging activity in Fort Collins. The Club opened in 1904 and held its first race in 1905. The winning prize was a bag of oats. Horse racing was an integral part of Fort Collins Gentleman’s culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. Gentleman, along with the occasional lady, gathered at tracks like that at Prospect Park to socialize with other "respectable" people, place dollar bets on their favored horses, and drink. Much like the casinos of Las Vegas, any place people gambled was a place where alcohol ran freely. The track was a hub for bootleggers and may have been a site of production for moonshiners. Throughout Prohibition, the Club continued to serve beer, whiskey, and other illegal alcoholic substances to their patrons. Most of the spirits were produced illegally in bootlegger's homes or even at the tracks themselves, in small spaces hidden in the stables or under the floors. Before Prohibition was enacted across America, some of the alcohol would have been bought in other towns and states and smuggled into Fort Collins as well. Jockeys and horse owners even sweetened whiskey with honey and gave it to horses as a performance booster. In 1913, the track closed. The land was bought by the city of Fort Collins and became part of the City Park Golf Course.


  • The race track at Prospect Park. Courtesy of Jean Helburg.
  • Betting Shed at Benning Race Track in DC. The Prospect Park track would have been smaller than this, but the commotion was similar. Courtesy of Keeneland Library Cook Collection.

Caroline Cutshall, Alan Linenburger, Devan Walsh, and Matt Witczak, Colorado State University, “Bootlegging, Immigrants, and Crime in Prohibition-Era Fort Collins,” Intermountain Histories, accessed October 17, 2018, http://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/132.

Flemming, Barbara. Fort Collins: A History. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014.
Helburg, Jean. An Anecdotal History of the Parks and Recreation Department. Fort Collins, CO, 2011.