Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Country Roller Rink -- Updates and Extras

After completing the post about the Country Roller Rink (located next to Brandywine Springs Amusement Park) I happened to come across some more information while aimlessly, I mean diligently researching the subject in some of the old digitized newspapers. I've made a few updates to the original post, but instead of making those of you who have already read the post go back and wade through to find the new stuff, I thought I'd lay it out here, too. Mostly the new information deals with the actual rink buildings themselves -- their construction, size and layout, and the nature of the second rink. I also found some more about the drive to fund the initial construction, as well as some other pictures. This post will end up being a bit heavier on pics and short(er) on text.

In the original post, I mentioned that Cloward and the others behind the rink sold stock to the public in order to fund its construction. What I didn't realize is just how hard they pushed for buyers. All through February, March, and April there were various large ads run selling people on buying into the rink. Below is one that ran on March 17, 1907. There was even a large ad soliciting "amateur agents" to sell stock on their own. They would "accept any reputable person of Wilmington (and immediate vicinity) as an agent, skaters preferred". Agents would receive one share for every ten they sold.

From the Sunday Morning Star, March 17, 1907
In the months prior to the opening in April, there were also several ads that gave updates on the progress of the construction of the rink. On January 27, an almost half-page ad ran that included two pictures of the partially-built rink. The picture at the top of the post is an exterior shot, while the one below shows the inside of the rink.

On March 10 there was an ad that, in addition to the usual salesman stuff, included a diagram of the layout of the rink, which also included its dimensions. The skating floor was 150' x 70', and the entire building was 150' x 80'. Presumably the side with the rooms was the front -- the side shown in the picture in the original post. The front door should have come into the lobby, I would think.

The last piece of "new" information sheds more light onto the nature of the second rink, put into place sometime after the original rink burned down in 1911. It lasted no more than three years, and this article from the [Philadelphia] Evening Public Ledger on September 14, 1914 tells us more information about it in one sentence than I've ever seen before in total. It also explains something from the original Sunday Morning Star article that had me confused -- the size of the rink that burned then. The Wilmington paper states that the rink was about 60' x 80', much smaller than the first rink. It turns out that the second rink was not a rebuilt version of the first -- it wasn't even a new building! The Evening Public Ledger states, "The skating rink building was a portion of the water exhibit booths which formerly stood in the court of City Hall, in Philadelphia."

I can find only limited information about what this might have been, but it seems it probably had to do with this exhibit which was held in October 1912. I can't find how long it ran, but if it was only a few weeks or so, then the building used as the second rink could have been relocated soon after that. The link shows a depiction of the exhibit, but none of the buildings shown look to be large enough to have been the rink. As far as I know, there are no pictures of the second rink.

Now to some odds and ends that never fit in anywhere else. Below is an ad from July 7, 1907. Ladies, you could have gotten in free to see fancy trick skater Leon Sprague. The bottom part, while sounding a bit rough to our ears, is a little interesting. If I'm understanding it correctly, unless it was some sort of show, it looks like African-Americans were able to use the rink, at least occasionally. Although not much is ever said outrightly, this seems not to have been the case with the amusement park. The rink, though, was not on park property.

This ad is for boxing in January 1908. Even gives ticket prices.

The picture below is interesting, too. I had always thought it was the roller polo team, until I saw an actual picture of them, included in the first post. The guys in uniform have roller skates on, so they are presumably sitting by the rink (the side door, I think). My best guess is that they may be employees at the rink. Ushers or skate guards of some sort. I haven't found anything on the names (Herb Haigle and Poole) yet, but I think the younger man in the middle (in the first row of three up) may be Bill Cloward. They pennants they're holding say "Palace Rink Brandywine Springs, Del". I have never seen that name associated with this rink. Either they pennants were souvenirs of some sort from another rink, or maybe "Palace Rink" was another short-lived name for this one. Maybe it was the second rink, which would explain the skirting that's in place behind them, which isn't present in the picture of the first rink.


  1. A heads-up to everyone, but especially Ken Shelin. On Ebay right now there are a bunch of late 19th Century cabinet cards (photographs) featuring members of families in and around MCH. They include Woodward, Flinn, Lynam, Ball, Cranston, Gregg and a few others. Sadly, right now my "Buy Old Pictures" budget is actually known as the "Buy Food for My Family" budget, so I thought I'd pass it along if anyone was interested. Here is the link:

    1. Thanks for the heads up Scott. I checked the Woodward pictures on eBay. They were of an Irwin and an Ethel Woodward, neither name in my line as far as I can remember. I'm in Wilmington right now, but will check my files carefully when I get home to Sarasota. I have time to bid if I decide I want them.
      Ken Shelin

    2. Scott and Ken, those Woodward pics on eBay are of Irvin C. Woodward, his wife Ella May (Lynam) Woodward and daughter Ethel. Irvin C. was the son of Frederick Klair Woodward and Ann C. Lynam who died shortly after giving birth to Irvin. Irvin was raised by his grandparents, David and Eleanor Lynam of Brandywine Springs.