Skating Into the Cold Weather in Prospect Park (Photos)

Children ready to take off in 1966. Photo via New York City Parks Photo Archive

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    The arrival of chilly weather doesn’t have to limit your time spent outdoors embracing the best of Brooklyn. Borough residents have long taken to the ice of Prospect Park as a way to celebrate the wintery season and enjoy some sporty activity in the midst of a bucolic landscape. Here are some vintage images of Brooklynites on the ice to inspire you to head out to the park this winter.

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    Skaters in the park circa 1872-1887. Photo by George Bradford Brainerd via Brooklyn Museum

    Brooklynite George Bradford Brainerd, an engineer and amateur photographer, started experimenting with photography at a young age and captured thousands of images, including early views of ice skaters in Prospect Park. In the 19th century, skaters packed the park on winter evenings and “hundreds of swirling figures zipped along the Lullwater, lit by the soft amber lights of lanterns” according to author David P. Colley in “Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece.”

    brooklyn prospect park

    Ice Carnival King Walter Schoenfeld and Queen Anita A. Pagliuca in 1936. Photo via New York City Parks Photo Archive

    When the weather cooperated in the 1930s and 1940s, the Department of Parks threw ice carnivals to celebrate the frozen lake, complete with skating competitions and the crowning of a festival king and queen. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the February 1936 ice carnival brought out 5,000 spectators to watch skaters race to the finish line and see the crowning of Walter Schoenfeld and Anita A. Pagliuca as king and queen. The event wasn’t an annual one though, it was dependent on weather cold enough to freeze the lake of Prospect Park. According to the Eagle, the next carnival wasn’t held until 1940, when 45,000 cold weather enthusiasts celebrated the return of the ice.

    brooklyn prospect park

    Skaters on the ice in 1940. Photo via Prospect Park Archives/Bob Levine Collection

    Everyday Brooklynites also enjoyed the ice in 1940. Here, an unidentified woman gives a child a wintry ride.

    brooklyn prospect park

    Children on the ice in 1966. Photo via New York City Parks Photo Archive

    The winter of 1961 brought the dedication of the brand new Kate Wollman Memorial Rink, which made outdoor skating an everyday reality for park visitors. Making use of the new venue, Brooklyn retailer Abraham & Straus sponsored an ice skating competition for children, the Brooklyn Blades Junior Ice Skating Competition. Since 2013, the wintertime staple in the park has been the Lefrak Center, built on the former site of the Wollman Rink.

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