Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, March 3

Gapers Block

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Some say suffering through Midwestern winters must make Chicagoans appreciate the summer more, as if the warmer months are the only time we venture outdoors to play.

They don't know us very well, do they?

Leave the hibernating to the bears, bats and frogs. Winter is the time for us to lace up our skates and hit the ice.

Ice skating has been one of the most popular winter sports in Chicago since the 19th century when kids and adults skated on the frozen Chicago River and other natural bodies of water in the area. But after the development of the city's parks system on the early 20th century, residents enjoyed being able to skate in Chicago's parks.

They skated on the Midway in Hyde Park. They skated in Washington Park. Folks even skated on the frozen lagoons in Humboldt and Garfield parks. And the boys goofing off on the ice in Lincoln Park in this photo dated circa 1905 are not much different from the skaters I captured last week at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park in the photo below. In a city reeling from the announced closings of Marshall Field's and The Berghoff, some comfort can be taken in knowing that at least one century-old Chicago tradition hasn't changed.


And, did you know Chicago has sent skaters to nearly every Winter Olympics since 1924? The upcoming 2006 games in Turin, Italy will be no different as Chicagoans can look forward to cheering on South Side native Shani Davis, a member of the U.S. Olympic speed skating team, and a strong gold medal contender after having won the 2005 speed skating World Allround Championship.

So, get your skates on. The Chicago Park District has a complete list of outdoor rinks on online. From Warren Park on the far north side to Rowan Park on the far south side, the webpage includes locations, hours of operation and even lists which CTA buses and trains can get you there. For those in the suburbs, check with your own local park district for an outdoor rink near you.

Keep in mind, however, that it can take several consecutive days of temperatures 20 degrees or lower to build enough frost on the ground to be able to create an outdoor ice rink. Because of the recent bout of milder weather, you may want to call first to make sure the rink is open before grabbing your skates and heading for the park.

Additional Resources

Photographs from the Chicago Daily News: 1902-1933
Visit this vast digitized collection of photos from the Chicago Daily News, and search for "ice skating" to view dozens of additional photographs of Chicagoans having fun on the ice in the early 20th century.

Skating Council of Illinois
According to the website, "the Skating Council of Illinois was formed in 2000 to encourage and facilitate cooperation between figure skating clubs within Illinois." Visit the website to find out more about the various clubs and competitions around the state.

Chicago Figure Skating Club
This Chicago Figure Skating Club is one of the country's oldest clubs authorized by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. It was founded in 1920, and is still going strong today. Visit the website to find out more about membership, competitions and more.

Amateur Skating Association of Illinois
If speed skating is more your style, check out this website to find out about speed skating clubs in Illinois.


Join the Gapers Block Book Club! Just sign up for the email list for news, announcements and more. This month we are reading The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. We will be meeting to discuss the book on Monday, January 9, at The Book Cellar, located at 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. The meeting will begin at 7:30pm.

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About the Author(s)

Alice Maggio is a Chicago librarian. She welcomes questions and topic suggestions for her column at . Due to the volume of email received, she may not reply to every query, but you may be contacted if your question is selected for the column.

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