Campus Ice Skating Once Offered Winter RespiteThe John D. Rockefeller skating rink
In the area of campus where Porter Hall now stands, overlooking Lower Lake, there once stood a covered skating rink.
The rink, donated to the College by John D. Rockefeller, measured 120 feet by 50 feet and was one of the first buildings built after the Great Fire of 1896 destroyed the original Mount Holyoke seminary building. The project was enthusiastically celebrated by the campus community. In the opening pages of the February 1896 issue of The Mount Holyoke, the editors wrote of the importance of students and other community members having a place on campus to go during the winter months where they could continue their physical education and nourish their mind, body, and spirit. “When winter closes down upon us it is different, and anything which tempts us out for the needed exercise is a gift to be held in great esteem. The new skating floor does just this,” they wrote.
At the request of Rockefeller, construction of the rink was completed by January, and students returned from winter break to celebrate its grand opening with a celebratory carnival. Bunting and streamers in class colors hung from the rafters as student skaters wore outfits honoring their own class years. During intermission, participants sang the college alma mater and Skating Song, an original song written specifically for the event by Margaret Geddes Lundy, class of 1898.
In addition, a twelve-piece band was on hand to perform music throughout the day. According to The Mount Holyoke, the chants “H-o-l-y-o-k-e, Holyoke, Holyoke are we—Rah! rah! rah! Rockefeller,” closed out the ceremony.
Just one year later, the rink was moved closer to Lower Lake to allow for the construction of Porter Hall. And in the years that followed it was often used as a service building, until it was eventually torn down in 1934.
—By Jess Ayer
—Photos courtesy of MHC Archives & Special Collections
This article appeared as “A Celebrated Winter Respite” in the winter 2018 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
January 11, 2018