Flashback Friday: Ice-skating in Central Park


Since winter is just around the corner, I thought you’d enjoy a little nugget of Victorian winter recreation.

The Central Park “lakes” were connected to the city’s water system, and in the winter the depth of the lake was lowered so that the water would freeze better.

Ice skating was an enormously popular pastime,when the conditions were right:  in the public parks, the ice had to be a minimum of 5.5 inches thick,  air holes were drilled into it at various intervals, and the surface itself had to be cleared, smoothed, and prepped, over and over again, as people using it would tear up the surface.  (No Zambonis back then).  Below is a January 9, 1891 article from The New York Times, which gives an interesting insight into the pastime in Central Park.

For more info, take a look at The History of Ice Skating in New York City Parks.

image and description from nycgovparks.org



I find this amazing:  10,000 people on the ice at one time!  Then let’s throw some curlers in the mix, just to make it interesting.  Other related articles discuss the shortage of skates, as there was a run on them this time of year.

Do you enjoy ice skating in the winter?  Can you imagine trying to skate in full skirts?  What is your favorite winter activity?

Brrr, keep warm!


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21 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: Ice-skating in Central Park”

  1. Kerry MeachamKerry Meacham

    Growing up in the South, I’ve never been on ice skates in my life. I tried skiing one time, when I was in my 40s. After about three hours of falling down, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and moved my activities to the ski lodge, in front of a fire next to the bar. ~clink~

    My favorite winter activity? Sitting in front of a fire next to the bar. ~clink~

    • Jenny HansenJenny Hansen

      You’re my kind of guy, Kerry. But even growing up in Los Angeles, I went to the ice skating rink! Didn’t you have those in the South??

  2. Merry FarmerMerry Farmer

    What a wonderful post! Even though I went ice skating all the time as a kid I still think there’s something Victorian about it, especially outdoors. My mom used to volunteer to be a chaperone at a local ice rink so that we could skate for free. We went all the time. I loved the feeling of zipping really fast over the ice, even though all you really do is just go around in circles all day. I took figure skating lessons too … once. One lesson. I fell so many times that I vowed to become a figure skating commentator instead of the next Olympian.

    Thanks for a lovely post! =D

  3. Isis RushdanIsis Rushdan

    I still can’t ice skate and couldn’t imagine it in full skirts. Would love to at Central Park one day.

  4. AmberAmber

    I love ice skating – even if I did it rarely (I’ve lived in FL since I was eight) and wasn’t very good at it.

    Skating in Central Park is in the bucket list I’ve yet to write. 🙂

  5. asraidevinasraidevin

    I grew up in a small Canadian town. If you didn’t skate, you didn’t do anything in winter. (Although, people who lived too far from town didn’t get to skate either). So I skated as a child until grade 6 for lessons. And since then for fun.

    I think the Central Park rink is central (haha) to one of my favorite moves “Serendipity”. I can’t recall the scene at the moment, but I love the rink because of that movie. Interesting history

  6. Susie LindauSusie Lindau

    I love this! The picture is worth a 1000 words alone~
    I grew up ice skating on the lakes in Madison, Wisconsin. I still love it! One year the ice froze in our backyard pond here in Boulder and I shoveled the ice, bought some hockey skates and skated for hours!

  7. Prudence MacLeodPrudence MacLeod

    Hi Kathy, that is awesome. I love it. Yep, as a child of the north, I did a lot of skating as a child. It’s been years now though. Hmmm, maybe this year…

  8. Pat O'Dea RosenPat O'Dea Rosen

    Ten thousand people on the ice in Central Park? Wow. I can’t imagine skating in a full skirt, KB, but I’d appreciate the layers beneath it the first time I took a spill.

  9. Jenny HansenJenny Hansen

    I LOVE stuff like this! It takes me back to my childhood, reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder or Louisa May Alcott characters ice skating. 🙂

  10. Liza MartzLiza Martz

    I love that picture of the people skating with the Algonquin in the background (that is the name of the place, isn’t it?) The people in the picture look like they are having so much fun. When I was little we used to skate on a frozen duck pond in a park near my house. It got pretty crowded but 10,000 skaters???? That is amazing!

  11. Angela Orlowski-PeartAngela Orlowski-Peart

    I’ve ice skated a lot as a child — on a frozen pond! I don’t think I’ve ever worn a full skirt, or any skirt for that matter, while skating though.
    Now the closest that I’ve got to ice skating is rollerblading 🙂 I’m also a downhill skier.

  12. Suma SubramaniamSuma Subramaniam

    It sounds so fun. I’ve never ice-skated, but I would love to watch the sport.

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