Leisure & sport: Indoor Rinks

Between the 1860s and the 1890s, Canada led the world in the construction of indoor skating rinks with natural ice. These enormous rinks kept the ice free from snow, and protected skaters from fierce winter winds. Indoor rinks could often accommodate up to 3,000 skaters and spectators. They were also used for skating competitions and winter festivals, including carnivals. Interior lighting with gas lamps meant that people could skate in the evenings in a very sociable and often romantic atmosphere. -source. The Revolutionary Indoor Rinks, Canadian Museum of Civilization, From January 27, 2006 to April 1, 2007

The occasion of a fancy dress skating carnival in the Victoria Rink inspired Notman’s first large composite in 1870. This event was staged in honour of Prince Arthur, who, as an officer in training with the Rifle Brigade, was stationed in Montreal. Notman declared his intention of making a record of the event, and invited those who planned to participate in the skating carnival to bring their costumes and skates to the studio and have their portraits taken for a composite photograph. One hundred and fifty people came in answer to the advertisement to don their brightly coloured costumes representing various themes and epochs.

On completion of this composite photograph, measuring 20×27 1/2 inches, Notman had his staff produce a much larger coloured version as well, measuring 37 1/2×53 1/2 inches. By use of a solar enlarger (an apparatus using sunlight as a light source), the image was projected on to a large canvas that had previously been coated with light-sensitive photographic emulsion. During the necessary very long exposure the image gradually appeared on the emulsified canvas. After fixing, washing, and drying, the canvas was attached to a wooden stretcher, of the type used for oil paintings. The image was then coloured in oil by Notman’s two most talented artists of that period, Henry Sandham and Edward Sharpe.-source: Fancy Dress Balls: All Dressed Up and Somewhere to Go, McCord Museum

Other major covered rinks in Québec City included three built in succession for the Quebec Skating Club, the first one on the Grande Allée in 1864; a second, also on the Grande Allée, built in 1878; and a third, constructed outside the Porte Saint-Louis near the Plains of Abraham in 1888-89. This rink served residents of Québec City until the building was demolished in 1911.

During her stay in Québec City between 1861 and 1866, Frances Monck, a Confederation-era diarist and social observer, often visited the Quebec Skating Club where she watched the skaters from one of the settees provided for dignitaries. She described conditions at the rink as cold and damp despite the wood stove, and she dressed accordingly, as noted in her journal of 1865:

I dressed for the rink ball, by putting on overstockings and boots, and warm things under my seal-skin coat, and my fur cap instead of a wreath! … When we arrived I was struck with the very pretty and novel sight; the rink was lit with gas, and decorated with flags and ornaments; there were tables with refreshments on the ice, and the 25th band was playing.

Montréal got its first indoor skating rink in 1859. It was built at the top of St. Urbain Street for the Montreal Skating Club.

Many of the indoor rinks that sprang up in Canada during the 1860s were called the Victoria Skating Rink. The first one of that name in Canada was built in 1862 in Montréal between Drummond and Stanley Streets. This building was the venue for two outstanding events in Canada’s skating history: the nation’s first indoor hockey match on March 3, 1875, and the first Stanley Cup finals, which were held in 1893. -source. The Revolutionary Indoor Rinks, Canadian Museum of Civilization, From January 27, 2006 to April 1, 2007



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