Horse racing has been a time-honored tradition and source of entertainment in the Lowcountry for centuries. There were once downtown tracks, such as the Washington Race Course (1792 to 1882, now Hampton Park), and there were (and still are) neighboring plantations with their own competitions. This photo, for example, was taken during a race at the Sinkler family’s Belvidere Plantation in Eutawville by Charleston’s own Morton “Nicky” Brailsford Paine, Jr. in 1936, possibly during the opening meet on the five-eighths-mile track. On that very first race day in late November, the house was packed with family and friends for a pre-race luncheon featuring macaroni pies, candied sweet potatoes, and a giant mint julep in a silver loving cup passed around for a swig or two. “Will Rogers,” the Sinkler’s own horse, won the feature race and was given a Coca-Cola as a reward. The meet was a huge success; DuBose Heyward said in a letter it was a return to “the very essence of ante-bellum racing that our ‘grands’ knew.” St. John’s Jockey Club operated out of Belvidere up until 1941, when the house was abandoned and dismantled to make way for the flood waters of the Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project. To see this photo, as well as Paine’s other action shots, zip over to the Charleston Museum’s “Shots of Speed” exhibit before the display closes on April 7.
Photograph courtesy of The Charleston Museum