2100 Race Street
|That's a big motherfucker for 1869. Image from the Athenaeum of Philadelphia|
It all starts in 1863. That's when James M. Plimpton invented the modern four wheel roller skate. Skates existed 100 years before that, but they sucked. Plimpton's skates were easy to learn, making roller skating a fun pastime. As a result, the 1860's became the Age of the Skating Rink. The first opened in Newport, Rhode Island in 1866 and the craze hit the nation so hard that Philadelphia had five rinks open by 1868... but they were all thrown together quickly and were really small.
In that year, a truly official skating rink for Philadelphia was planned. It would be uncreatively named the Philadelphia Skating Rink. It would be 288' x 189' and have long single arched roof around 100 feet tall. The massive roof used a newly-patented waterproofing technology known as Outcalt's Plastic Joint Iron Roof. A gigantic mansard-roofed tower would stick out of the front, making the building one of the tallest west of Broad Street at the time. The cost was $80,000, 9.3 million in today's scrilla.
The rink was completed around the beginning of 1869 and made headlines when it opened. It was so fucking big that people didn't call it the Philadelphia Skating Rink, they called it the Mammoth Rink. Then, on April 29th of the same year, it burned the fuck down... a total loss. The motherfucker was under construction longer than it stood. The lot was replaced by a lumber yard for awhile before the rowhomes that stand there now were built around 1890. The rink never even made it on to any city maps and appears in only one city directory. This is why many historians researching it either doubt it ever existed or get it confused with the Addison Hutton-designed mega-sized skating rink that stood at 23rd and Chestnut.
It makes you wonder... if this Gigantor of Roller Skating Nutsacks had not burned down, would it still be standing today? What fate would have befell it? Similar rinks in other cities became everything from convention centers to field houses. What would have this become? It boggles the mind.