Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures

Designers: Kaufmann, Gordon B., Architect (firm); Marks, Joshua H., Building Contractor (firm); Tomson, Tommy, Landscape Architect (firm); Gordon Bernie Kaufmann (architect); Joshua H. Marks (building contractor); Thomas Tomson (landscape architect)

Dates: constructed 1933-1934

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285 West Huntington Drive
Santa Anita Race Track, Arcadia, CA 91007-3439

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Building History

This track, like the first Santa Anita course, occupied land formerly part of the 13,319-acre Rancho Santa Anita first given by the Spanish governor to the San Gabriel Mission Mayordomo Jose Marie Claudio Lopez (c. 1767-1833). After his death, Scotsman Hugo Reid (1811–1852), who naturalized to Mexican citizenship in the 1830s in order to own land in Alta California, bought the property. After Reid, a quick succession of six Anglo owners bought and sold the property until 1875 when legendary gambler/investor Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin (1828-1909) obtained title. Baldwin lived a flamboyant and luxurious personal life, although he was notoriously stingy with creditors and employees. He subdivided some of the rancho land during the Southern CA real estate boom of the 1880s, creating the City of Arcadia, but kept most of it as a working farm. Baldwin was well known for the horses that he raised, some of which became sweepstakes winners, and he opened the first Santa Anita Track in 1907.

During the Progressive Era, however, gambling began to be seen as a major source of social corruption. Although gambling was theoretically outlawed in CA in 1885, restrictions grew much tighter on all forms, including horse racing by the 1900s. Passage of the Walker-Otis Anti-Race Track Gambling bill on 02/04/1909 explicitly outlawed wagering on horse racing in the state beginning in 1910, a prohibition that lasted until 1933. (See "California Racing Gets Fatal Blow," New York Times, 02/05/1909, p. 8.)

The Depression changed public thinking. Gambling could bring in needed tax revenue and put people back to work. Fixing of races and wagering were also made harder by the invention of the "totalizer." According to a State of CA web site on the California Horse Racing Board: "The legalization of parimutuel betting was in part driven by the advance of technology, notably the development of the totalizator, commonly called a tote board, in the 1920s. The device counts money, records ticket sales and bets, computes the odds, and displays the information on a message board. Developed in New Zealand, the first totalizators installed in the United States were at Hialeah Park, Florida, in 1932 and at Arlington Park, Chicago, in 1933. The installation of the tote boards spurred growth in horse racing by providing the public with a safe alternative to using illegal bookmakers to bet on races." (See "California Horse Racing Board,"accessed 02/20/2014.)

In 06/1933, voters passed Proposition 3, the so-called "Horse Racing Act," that added an amendment 25A to Article IV of the state constitution that legalized horse racing again. (See "1933 Horse Racing,"accessed 02/20/2014.) The Santa Anita Race Track opened on 12/25/1934, financed by a Northern CA group and a Southern CA syndicate led by movie mogul Hal Roach (1892-1992). Horse racing was suspended during World War II, (1942-1944), when the park was used as an assembly area for interned Japanese-Americans, among other things. Ownership has changed hands three times since 1997; Meditrust bought the track from the Santa Anita Companies in that year; Meditrust sold the property to Meditrust sold the track to Magna Entertainment Corporation, a Canadian company that owned 13 racetracks in 2008, 12 in North America and 1 in Austria. On the West Coast, Magna also owned Portland Meadows, Portland, OR, (bought in 2001) and Golden Gate Fields, Albany, CA. (bought 12/1999). Magna at one time also owned Bay Meadows Racecourse, San Mateo, CA, which closed in 11/2007.

Architect Gordon B. Kaufmann designed this second Santa Anita facility, working with the building contractor Joshua H. Marks (1884-1965) and landscape architect Tommy Tomson (1901-1986). Architect Chester R. Phillips designed the decorative friezes on the exterior of the Santa Anita Grandstand. The friezes appear to have taken their cue from ancient Greek pottery paintings.

Building Notes

The National Trust for Historic Preservation put the Santa Anita Race Track on its 11 Most Endangered Buildings List in 2000, due to plans to remodel the 1934 grandstand and to tear down the 1938 Saddling Barn and South Ticket Gate to make way for Shops at Santa Anita, a 830,000-square-foot commercial, retail, and office complex. The City of Arcadia approved this development in 04/2008 and construction was projected to be completed in 2010. In 2008, Santa Anita covered about 320 acres; 26,000 fans could sit in the 1,100-foot-long Grandstand, designed by architect Gordon Bernie Kaufmann (1888-1949). Infield seating could hold a large additional crowd. The track also included 61 barns with a capacity of 2,000 horses and an equine hospital.


Owners of Santa Anita installed a new "downhill turf" track in 1953. Renovations to the track occurred in the 1960s; expansion of the grandstand happened at this time. The California Horse Racing Board decreed that all five horse racing tracks in CA must replace existing dirt tracks with new artificial surfaces considered beneficial to horses. A "Cushion Track" racing surface was installed and in use by 09/04/2007, but this caused drainage problems and was replaced by an Australian "Pro-Ride" surface in 2008.

PCAD id: 5848