Skating Through Time: A Look Back at NYC’s Ice Rinks

Posted On Wed, December 24, 2014 By

Posted On Wed, December 24, 2014 By In Features, History, holidays

The ice skating in Central Park in 1900, via MCNY

One of the most festive holiday activities doesn’t end at New Year’s, but rather lasts through the winter. Ice skating in NYC is a hot activity, with lines easily wrapping around the block at the Bryant Park Winter Village and Rockefeller Center’s ice rink. But this isn’t a new trend. Ice skating has long been a popular social pastime for New Yorkers, whether on a frozen pond in Central Park or at the Biltmore Ice Garden at the Biltmore Hotel. Plenty of historic photographs exist, documenting the transformation of the New York ice skater; so we’ve put together a timeline of this winter activity.

ice skaters 1889
Outdoor apparel from 1889 via NYPL

Back in the 19th century, female skaters were sure to be decked out in the latest fashions despite the frigid temperatures.

Central Park ice skating, the Dakota

Central Park ice skating
Via MCNY

These photos were taken in 1894. A woman and girl are skating on a frozen lake in Central Park with the Dakota in the background; another shot shows a large group crowded onto the lake.

Van Cortlandt Park ice skating
Via MCNY

Skaters line up for their turn on the ice in Van Cortlandt Park in 1906.

Biltmore Ice Gardens, Biltmore Hotel
Via MCNY

Biltmore Ice Gardens, the Biltmore Hotel’s skating rink, in 1915.

Rockefeller Center ice skating rink
Via MCNY

Workers lay the water pipes for the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink in 1936.

Rockefeller Center Skating Rink, Sharkey the Seal
Via NYPL

Here’s a fun photo from 1940 of Sharkey, the famous trained seal who appeared alongside Jack Haley, Marta Eggert, and Shirley Ross in the musical comedy “Higher and Higher” at the Shubert Theatre. He’s the guest of honor at the Rockefeller Center skating rink with the Specialty Dancing Girls who are wearing roller skates instead of ice skates.

Wollman Rink, Central Park
Via MCNY

Central Park’s Wollman Rink in 1955.

Rockefeller Center Skating Rink
Via MCNY

The Rockefeller rink in 1960.

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