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What skating used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Chris Bateman / December 6, 2013

toronto ice skating historyTime to put away that fall gear - the skating season is officially upon us. Toronto's public rinks are now open for shinny and the first Bambi-like forays onto the hard stuff, despite a recent uptick in temperatures.

Unfortunately, there's no more skating on the Don or the Toronto Bay, as there was until around the 1930s and 40s - the temperatures don't get low enough and it was probably never all that safe anyway.

In winters of old, however, every patch of frozen water became prime real estate for skaters, even shallow puddles in vacant lots. Here's a look back at when skaters in Toronto looked like subjects in an L. S. Lowry painting.

toronto ice skatingSkaters on the Toronto Bay

toronto ice skatingA frozen Don River near Riverdale Park, looking south to Gerrard

toronto ice skatingSkaters at Christie Pits

toronto ice skatingFigure skaters put on an outdoor show

toronto ice skatingA group of girls take to the ice between 1910 and 1912

toronto ice skatingWomen lace up beside Grenadier Pond in High Park

toronto ice skatingSkaters on Grenadier Pond

toronto ice skatingNervous skaters cling together in High Park

toronto ice skatingMoss Park skating championships race

toronto ice skatingAnother view of a skate race at Moss Park

toronto ice skatingWomen on the ice at Riverdale Park

toronto ice skatingWide shot of a frozen Riverdale Park

toronto ice skatingA makeshift rink on a vacant lot

toronto ice skatingFigure skaters show off for the camera at Varsity Arena

toronto ice skatingHeavy winter coats on display at Varsity Arena

toronto ice skatingRinks at Christie Pits, then Willowvale Park.

toronto ice skatingSkaters at Withrow Park

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: City of Toronto Archives



W. K. Lis / December 6, 2013 at 11:29 am
In Old Toronto, one could NOT toboggan down Toronto hills on a Sunday. However, one could skate on Grenadier Pond, not today though.
E. Toby Coke / December 6, 2013 at 11:52 am
"...there's no more skating on the Don or the Toronto Bay, as there was until around the 1930s and 40s - the temperatures don't get low enough..."

I was out skating at Cherry Beach, with maybe a hundred others, two years ago. There was even a dude on a motorbike, bombing around with studded tires. Good times.
Skye / December 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Love the skaters all in a line in High Park. I wonder if they're actually "nervous", or playing Crack-The-Whip ?
Joe M / December 8, 2013 at 03:55 pm
I love these galleries from the city archives! However, it would be great if you could add dates and credits for the photos. (Should we just take their absence to mean these are unknown?)
Hans F. Schweinsberg / December 8, 2013 at 08:02 pm

How delightful! The woman on the left in Item 479 looks very much like Virginia Woolf (1882-19410. "There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."
Thank you Chris Bateman for posting this.

TeeGee replying to a comment from Skye / December 9, 2013 at 08:46 am
Well, for the skaters to truly be playing Crack-The-Whip, they'd have to hold hands so that they can yank each other around and get that satisfying whiplash effect that sends the end-of-the-line skaters flying off into oblivion.

But I don't think they were "nervous" as the caption says -- just having fun. To me... looks like a conga line! :D

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