Kane County History: 2,000 to 3,000 People Used To Ice Skate in Elgin

Kane County History: 2,000 to 3,000 People Used To Ice Skate in Elgin

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was submitted by Elgin History Museum Curator of Collections Beth Nawara.

As the days and nights get colder, we begin thinking about cold weather activities. One winter activity that was very popular in Elgin, IL, was ice skating at the Lords Park lagoons. The lagoons were also referred to as ponds and lakes.

During the winter of 1919, there was an announcement in the Elgin Daily Courier newspaper on Dec. 5 that the lakes were “covered with ice strong enough to be safe.” They allowed up to 1,500 skaters on the ice.

On Dec. 24, 1919, it was announced that because ice skating at Lords Park was so popular “500 feet above the Kimball Street bridge will be cleared of snow, and otherwise made suitable for the skaters” on the Fox River. This area would be approximately 150,000 square feet of skating area. The Fox River would accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 additional skaters.

By Dec. 27, 1919 the Lords Park lower lagoon had been “flooded for skaters and is smooth as glass.” If people did not own ice skates, they could rent them at the Lords Park entrance.

Skaters would be on the ice from morning until night.

Announcements would be made in the local papers indicating when the ice at Lords Park was ready for skating. Usually, it was ready the first week of December. Smaller ponds would be ready earlier.

The Lords Park lagoons often opened later because of the large number of people that skated on them. The ice had to be 6 inches thick.

“We have to be sure the lagoon ice is thick enough to support a throng before we can announce it is available for skating,” the parks commissioner was quoted in the paper.

A horse drawn street car was used as a warming house.

City-Wide Ice Skating Carnival

The first Elgin City-Wide Ice Skating Carnival was in 1921. The second annual City-Wide Ice Skating Carnival was sponsored by the Elgin Daily News, the Elgin Skating Club and Elgin merchants. It was sanctioned by the Western Skating Association and held on Dec. 30, 1922.

The Western Skating Association was the “governing body over speed, figure and kindred skating sports of the Western States.” Part of the ice skating carnival included six ice skating champions from Chicago and an additional 50 athletes prominent in skating clubs from around the United States.

Ice skating became so popular that in 1937 a bridge was removed that led to the center island and the island area was cut down to provide a championship ice skating course that was used in January of 1938.

The 1970s were a rough decade for skating enthusiasts at Lords Park, when the lagoons stopped consistently freezing

In 1972, tiles were laid underground at the north end of the park. Those tiles diverted water into the lagoons with so much force the water would not freeze. Ice could not form thick enough for skating. The increase in water also caused eroding of the banks of the lagoons and caused light poles to tilt and fall into the water.

November of 1976 was the coldest on record which helped make ice skating possible in December of 1976. By 1995, the lagoons had not frozen solid for 10 years. During the 2000s and 2010s ice skating moved to the Civic Center area.

Prints of the Shirley Steffen painting of ice skaters at Lords Park is available at the Elgin History Museum and online https://elginhistory.org/product/lords-park-pavilion-with-ice-skaters/.

‘Museum Store Sunday’ Is Nov. 28!

Celebrating its fifth year, Museum Store Sunday is an international event where holiday shoppers will not only find quality gifts filled with inspiration and educational value, but through their purchases, will also directly support their favorite museums.

Books, DVD’s, Artwork, Home Accessories, and more are available in our online shop. A brand new selection of jewelry made with Elgin watch faces will be available starting Nov. 28. Special bundle pricing, discounts, and FREE gift with purchase will be offered. Museum Members can also use their 15% discount online! Please note: This event is ONLY online, the Museum is closed on Sunday.

Read The Kane County History Series!

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