Monday, December 17, 2012

Ice Skating in Butte

Butte celebrated the long-anticipated formal opening of the Pavilion Ice Rink, the largest and finest rink west of Chicago, late in 1884. The amphitheater was located on Alaska Street, one block east of the Butte Silver Bow County Courthouse, where the parking lot of the Butte-Silver Bow Archives is today. During the weeks leading up to the opening, the Daily Miner reported problems in freezing the rink because of the vast area of ice it required. The skating area was 9,000 square feet. A culvert supplying water for the ice ran beneath a cement floor. The ice was formed in thin layers of fine spray to a final depth of six inches. The process was labor intensive, and thus the opening was postponed throughout December as managers worked to build up the layers of ice. Finally, a pre-opening Grand Masquerade on December 20 attracted skaters from Anaconda and Deer Lodge. The Northern Pacific offered special rates and reserved seats at no extra charge for those out-of-towners attending the gala. The event featured floral arrangements from San Francisco, a flowing bronze fountain from Chicago that cost $600, special effects from new electric lighting, a newly uniformed brass band, a completely dust-free environment, and four hundred pairs of the celebrated New York Club skates for rent. There was also an experienced bouncer to make certain no bad characters gained admittance. After the preview on December 20, the rink opened to the public on Christmas Day, and on New Year’s Eve, professional skaters from back East promised the best entertainment ever produced on ice. The rink, however, proved too difficult to maintain, and soon it was no more.

May your holidays be as festive as those celebrations.

Postcard courtesy Nancy Oram


  1. There's a drawing of the Pavilion from the 1884 Bird's Eye View of Butte, here:

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