July 31, 1882
In July 1882 the talk in St. John’s was all about the erection of a skating rink in Bannerman Park. The rink under the management of the ‘Victoria Rink Company Limited‘ would replace the first rink that was established in the park (in the late 1860’s) that was destroyed by a fire in the early morning of July 16, 1878.
Some of the leading citizens in St. John’s were determined that the skating rink be built. On July 31, 1882 the St. John’s newspaper, The Telegram ran an advertisement that declared:
“ Victoria Rink Company Limited: Tenders will be received up to noon on 5 August for the erection of a skating rink in Bannerman Park. Plans and specifications to be seen at the Bowring Brothers Office. W. Parnell, Secretary”
Residents of St. John’s, in the day, had some fond memories of the Victoria Skating Rink in Bannerman Park located next to the Colonial Building on Military Road. The Victoria, and its neighbor, the Avalon, built in 1870, were designed for winter sports such as skating and curling but most people associated the two buildings with the eccentric Professor Charles Henry Danielle. Under his guidance, the Victoria Rink became the home of elaborate fancy-dress balls and ice carnivals. These balls were huge affairs. For one ball the local papers reported that
“near three thousand dollars’ worth of Costumes have been brought to the country (Newfoundland) to give the Ball. It has cost weeks of labour in classifying and fitting these costumes… “
The Professor (as he liked to be called) also created a large array of fancy-dress costumes which he rented and sold. These were stored in an adjacent building (The Avalon) to the Victoria Rink.
The idea of a new skating rink in Bannerman Park did not catch the imagination of the population another proposal for a ‘Curling and Skating Rink’ on the “Parade Grounds” (now the site of the Rooms and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) Headquarters) won the day. The Parade grounds Curling and Ice Rink opened in December 1882.
Skating in Bannerman Park was forgotten
In July 2013 (131 years after the first proposal) funding to establish a skating facility became a reality.
Today in the heart of the park, is a new ice skating trail, The Bannerman Loop aka “The Loop”. Named through a social media callout for suggested names at the request of its sponsor, Patron Donor Elinor Gill Ratcliffe and the Gill Ratcliffe Foundation, this ice trail is unique in both its presence in the city and its design. From October to April, many a day is now being spent skating with friends and family on this one-of-a-kind ice skating surface. In the warmer months, in-line skating and children cycling is the order of the day.
Professor Danielle is certain to be smiling on the Bannerman Foundation.
Recommended Reading: Stories About Bannerman Park: http://www.bannermanpark.ca/stories/
Recommended Action: Support the Garden of Memories in Bannerman Park: People who enjoy the park can contribute to the park‘s revitalization through by sponsoring various fixtures, flower gardens, and commemorative granite stones, which will be used for the pathways in the Garden. For more information: http://www.bannermanpark.ca/the-garden-of-memories-open-to-the-public/
Recommended to Listen: Lines On The Death Of Professor Danielle (Johnny Burke) http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/29/lines.htm
Do you have a story to tell about Bannerman Park?