The Ice Palace is Open: Buy, Beg, or Borrow a Pair of Skates

The Ice Hippodrome, or Ice Palace, opened in Portland in 1914. It was a huge building, the largest ice skating rink in the world when it was built. It was regularly advertised next to theaters in the Morning Oregonian as a form of entertainment (Figure 1). Like the movies, the ice rink often advertised live band performances to go along with their skating sessions. When it opened, it even offered free instruction to beginners, making skating more accessible to the general public. In the summer, when ice skating was not in season, the Ice Palace held many events, because it could regularly seat two thousand people. In the 1916 elections, the building hosted several political rallies and speeches. For the Hughes rally, the rink set up enough seating for ten thousand people to attend.

Like theaters, the ice rink was clearly closely linked to the community at large. There are ads in the papers for an ice carnival, a horse show, and a Food Fete all hosted by the Ice Palace. It was also linked to other spaces in the community. Most interestingly, there is an ad for a live performance (Figure 2) at the Orpheum which says that one of the acts is the El Rey sisters’ skating act. It mentions that the act will be of “more than usual interest, now that everyone who can buy, beg, or borrow a pair of skates is learning to use them out at the new ice palace”. This tie-in to the ice rink was an exciting find, because it provides evidence that theaters used the ice rink as a way to promote ice-themed shows. The two forms of entertainment played off of one another. While ice skating was not perhaps the most widespread form of entertainment in Oregon at this time, looking at the development of the Ice Palace in Portland gives us insight into the ways that communities gather at places of entertainment.

Advertisement of entertainment in Portland, including the ice rink and a movie theater.
Figure 1. Amusements in Portland.
The Orpheum theater advertises an ice skating act in conjunction with the newly opened Ice Palace.
Figure 2. Orpheum advertisement mentioning the Ice Palace.