How New York keeps its cool: A history of ice skating in NYC

Central Park, E 72nd St. Lake, ice skating race, published Manhattan Parks Dept. Annual Report, 1928. Courtesy of NYC Parks.

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but New York is already a winter wonderland. How do we know? The skating rinks are open. If you choose to glide through the holiday season on ice, taking a spin anywhere from Central Park to Coney Island, you’re sliding into a New York winter tradition that includes the nation’s first organized ice rink, a decade of “Icetravaganzas” that drew millions, a glittery trend of hotel ice gardens throughout midtown, and even the a relationship to origins of baseball. So lace up, and read on for a history of ice-skating in New York City.

Central-Park Winter, 1862, via NYPL Digital Collections

Dutch and English New Yorkers glided on the frozen ponds and streams of Lower Manhattan in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the history of organized ice skating in New York City (and the nation) begins in Central Park in 1858. That year, before the Park itself was entirely finished, The Lake welcomed skaters. In fact, ice skating was integral to Olmstead and Vaux’s vision for Central Park: On their Greensward Plan, the…

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