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Posted on August 12, 2020 at 3:26 PM by Ken Kocher
Evidently, at various points in time, Madisonians were skating fools. A read through the Madisonian archives reveals that Madison has had no fewer than five skating rinks. And when there wasn’t one open, they were asking for one to be built. Madison’s first skating rink appears to have been established in Foster’s Hall (corner of Main and Washington) around 1873. By partaking in this activity, Madisonians – particularly the youth – were joining a world-wide skating craze. James Leonard Plimpton designed the four-wheeled turning roller skate in 1863. It was a huge success, so much so that the first public roller skating rinks were opened in 1866, first in New York City by Plimpton.
The January 16, 1873 Greensboro Herald reported that their Brass Band would be attending a “grand Masquerade Skating Tournament” in Madison. The article went on to say that a cordial invitation was extended to everybody and “to assure our young ladies that the Madison boys never allow a young lady to visit their city and go away without being courted.” This was actually a common complaint about skating rinks in the 1870s – far too much contact between the sexes. It is not known how long Foster’s Hall was used for skating. There is mention in an 1885 Madisonian that, “Our skating rink is well patronized and the young people seem to have a pleasant time in its enjoyment.” However, no location is mentioned. This may have been a last hurrah as the fad petered out by the mid-1880s, but, as with many fads, it would reappear again and again.
Next week: Madison’s late twentieth century skating rinks.
Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Historic Preservation Commission and written by Ken Kocher, HPC staff. This volunteer board protects the community's wealth of historic resources - most notably the Madison Historic District, first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Tag(s): Skating Rinks, Pierce Freeman, Hotel Morgan, Hill Park, Handle Factory, Edna Pou, Clinton Thompson, Betty Robb Peacock
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