PODCAST: Randall’s Island and the 1936 Olympic trials

PODCAST The smaller islands of the East River reveal fascinating secrets of the city’s past, and Randall’s and Ward’s Islands are no exceptions.

Found out how these former potter’s fields are related to the most important Olympics-related event New York City has ever seen. The cast includes a swashbuckling British engineer, Jesse Owens, Tony Bennett, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Moses, and Pearl Jam!

Listen to it for free on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or you can download or listen to it HERE

2326150506_5987517b19

The Olympic trials at Downing Stadium not only made Jesse Owens (seen below in the 100 meter) into an athletic superstar, but the black and Jewish American athletes who qualified that day became an embarassment to the Olympic host city, Berlin, and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

jesse-owens

From a stock picture in the 40s, when Randall’s and Ward’s were still seperate entity and the Little Hell Gate was still a existing body of water.
1948-randalls-and-wards

Engineer and interogator John Montressor, who owned Randall’s Island during British occupation.
montresor

From a British print — the treacherous Hell Gate pass, as seen from ‘Great Barn Island’ (later to be known as Ward’s Island)

hell-gate-great-barn

 

Two hospitals on Wards Island, 1880

Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York

A picture of the Infant’s Hospital on Randall’s Island, 1935

infant-randals

The Triborough Bridge as seen from Astoria swimming pool, circa the bridge’s date of birth — 1936

1936-Triborough-Astoria-Pool

From on old tactile sign on the island, indicating the placement of Downing Stadium.

randalls
Downing Stadium, the later years.

downing

The spectacular new Icahn Stadium at night

2006-09-Icahn-Stadium_SloanLED

Another angle, with downtown Manhattan at top.

randallsisland

A current map of Randall’s and Ward’s.

current-map

  • Anonymous

    Karen Cohen, the president of the Randall’s Island Sports Federation, is among those responsible for the resurgence of the island. See this 1994 NYT article on the collective efforts to revitalize the park.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E6D71F3FF93BA25754C0A962958260

  • Don

    Hello,

    May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

    Our site:

    URL: http://www.2008chinaolympics.com
    Title: Beijing Olympics

    Please let me know if you want a link back.
    Many thanks for your reply.

    Best Regards,

    Don
    chinaolympics8@gmail.com

  • Anonymous

    My friends and I go to Randall’s Island after dark all the time but not without sidearms. You probably think I’m joking. If so, you’ve never been there after dark. It’s an adventure to say the least!

  • Great post. I just spent the past couple days over there on the running trails. It has been cleaned up quite a bit and seems much safer now than it was in the past. I still wouldn’t want to be there after dark though…