Skating into a new semester

December 30, 2019 at 3:45 PM


In 1894, John D. Rockefeller gave Mount Holyoke $2,000 to build a covered skating rink, with just one condition: that the building be completed by January 1, 1896. Construction was completed over the 1895 winter break, just in time for the students’ return to campus. Originally located where Porter Hall now stands, the rink offered a fun pastime and an opportunity for physical fitness during the cold winters.

To celebrate the new 6,000-square-foot rink, the College held an opening carnival on February 5, 1896. According to the February 1896 issue of The Mount Holyoke, “the space overhead was filled with decorations of bunting in the class and college colors, making the rafters gay, and the colors worn by the skaters added to the festive appearance. Each corner was decorated with streamers of a class color, and here the members gathered during the afternoon to give their yells … A band of twelve pieces furnished the music, which gave the finishing touch to the whole.” One student — Miss Margaret S. Geddes, class of 1897 — even wrote a song to commemorate the event:

O'er the glistening ice
Gliding smoothly by,
Around and round in circling bound
The merry skaters fly.
Let laughter light and gay
Ring through the frosty air,
Let the god of mirth hold sway,
We'll banish thoughts of care.
Holyoke fair! Holyoke fair!
Here's to thy color true,
And now and ever may we all
Be loyal to the blue.

Gleaming o'er the ice
Fly the rods of shining steel,
Back and forth and to and fro
They twist and turn and wheel.
Work we have laid aside,
And pleasure's at the helm;
Let not a thought of care be held
Within this glistening realm.
Holyoke fair! Holyoke fair!
Here's to thy color true,
And now and ever may we all
be loyal to the blue.

One year after the opening, the rink was moved closer to Lower Lake in order to make way for the construction of Porter Hall. In this new space, it was often used as a service building until it was eventually torn down in 1934. Though the skating rink no longer exists, it’s interesting to learn about what life at Mount Holyoke was like in the past, and to wonder about how it will look in the future. It also clearly demonstrates how philanthropic support impacts Mount Holyoke’s landscape and the ever-changing needs of its students.

» Read more about the history of the John D. Rockefeller skating rink.

Pictured above: Mount Holyoke students play rink polo on the covered skating rink given by John D. Rockefeller, 1896. Photo courtesy of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

Rachel Nix ’20

Written by Rachel Nix ’20

Rachel, a politics major and sociology minor, is a marketing assistant in the Office of Advancement and a contributor to the MHC Forever blog. Hailing from West Virginia, she serves on MHC’s Admissions and Financial Aid Advisory Committee, is deeply involved with social justice initiatives and loves spending her free time with friends, reading on the green or trying to pet Jorge, the goose.