May 12 2018

The Residence of the Starter of Five Vanderbilt Cup Races Rediscovered in Smithtown

Fred J. Wagner was the premier race starter in the early 1900s including: all the Long Island Vanderbilt Cup Races with the exception of the 1904 race.  Researcher Corey Victoria Geske has recently revealed that a beautiful Smithtown residence built in 1913 was the residence of Fred and Nancy Wagner.

Ms. Geske's findings were recently published in the Preservation Notes Newsletter of  Preservation Long Island, an organization where  I am one the Board of Directors. Below are highlights from the newsletter  and further documentation of the omnipresent Fred Wagner.


Howard Kroplick

Preservation Notes Newsletter Fall 2017

Rediscovering Smithtown's Golden Age of Progressive Architecture & Design

Preservation Long Island (SPLIA)

The  building is currently vacant. However,  the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection, the current owner, has plans to restore it as a rectory and meeting place.

Wagner's residence was designed by architect, furniture designer and publisher Gustav Stickley (1858-1942).

Stickley was the leading proponent of the American Craftsman style.

From a 1913 article published in The Craftsman.

Documentation of Fred J. Wagner

To assist in the effort to place Wagner's former residence on the National Register of Historic Places, below are images and documents from my collection.

1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race

1905 race officials with Wagner listed as the Starter

1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race

1906 race officials with Wagner listed as the starter.

Wagner can be seen at the far left, right next to referee William. K. Vanderbilt, Jr.

Wagner set racing history using a checkered flag for the first time to signify the winner.

1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Wagner was listed as the 1908 Starter and Clerk of the Course.

Wagner can be seen to the far right, next to referee William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.

Wagner waved the checkered flag for the first American to win the Vanderbilt Cup Race.

1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Wagner was listed as the 1909 Starter and Clerk of the Course.

One of my very favorite photos, Wagner gave the checkered flag to Harry Grant in the Alco Black Beast.

1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Wagner was listed as the 1910 Starter.

The Alco Black Beast again received the checkered flag from Wagner.

1911 Indy 500 Race

Fred Wagner was the starter for the first Indy 500 Race.

Wagner during a 1911 race.

Book: The Saga of the Roaring Road

John Mitchel wrote this bookFred J. Wagner's The Saga of the Roaring Road.  The book is courtesy of Belinda Lanphear and her father. Belinda's father was a design engineer whose work was used in the NASA missions.

Belinda's  great grandfather Ed Gregory received the book by Fred Wagner's wife Nancy  (Mother Wagner) in 1946.

Courtesy of Belinda Lanphear.

Nancy Wagner was the grand niece of President Abe Lincoln.

Nancy and Fred Wagner. Courtesy of Belinda Lanphear.


May 13 2018 Joseph DeBono 3:14 AM

Just another one of those great little facts of the “Vanderbilt Cup Races & MotorPky”. I bet Mr Wagner would never dream he be written about, a 107 years latter. That what make this great, Fun and exciting! In other words this would be dead forever, if not for a few people like us or this website, that search & follow the “Vanderbilt Cup Races & Motorpky”. Those people & This website keep it alive. Thank you Howard.  Joseph DeBono

May 13 2018 Walt Gosden 7:52 AM

This information/story is absolutely tremendous! thank you Howard and thanks to all who provided information. What a perfect way to start the day off by read this . I really appreciate all the effort that goes into making this web site a treat to read every week.

May 13 2018 Don Hodius 1:38 PM

So cool. Fred Wagner was arguably the most renowned flag man in early US motor racing. He was a fixture of the A.A.A. and officiated hundreds of key races. His book Saga of the Roaring Road has some terrific stories.

May 13 2018 Jeff Levin 3:47 PM

I live a few blocks from the house and drive past it daily. I’ve ridden my bicycle around it a couple of times and studied the house. As an artist, I always suspected there was an interesting story behind it.It is incredibly well built. Despite years of standing empty and unattended it appears still to be very restorable. I had no idea who the original owner was or who designed it. Thank you Howard for educating us, I will certainly look at it differently from now on!

Nov 16 2019 Corey Victoria Geske 11:01 AM

Thank you, Howard, for all your help in the successful effort to place The Residence of the Starter of Five Vanderbilt Cup Races, Fred J. Wagner, on the National Register of Historic Places! The New York State Review Board for Historic Preservation unanimously approved his home for the State Register on June 13, amazingly, the 150th Anniversary of Fred’s birth in 1869. Designed by Gustav Stickley, Fred’s home qualified under three criteria, notably Criterion B, as nationally significant “for its association with the life of Frederick J. Wagner of national and international auto racing fame.” Officially cited as the ‘Frederick and Annie Wagner Residence’ (Annie was Nancy’s nickname), both the Stickley rectory and adjacent church (originally built as St. Patrick’s R.C. Church) belonging to the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Smithtown, are now listed on the National Register. Many thanks, Howard, for your blog picturing your great collection of materials about Fred, all cited throughout the Register Nomination I prepared. Thank you for helping to preserve Long Island’s historic treasures in Smithtown!  P.S. As you suggested, I’ve bought a checkered flag. To borrow a line from Field of Dreams, if I wave it, will the auto shows come?

Nov 16 2019 Corey Victoria Geske 11:06 AM

Howard, here’s the working link for the PLI Newsletter that connects, so you can use it in your blog (the one there now isn’t connecting). Its

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