I will say, Baltimore has never really been known for having the best rinks in the past. Anyone who has skated at Benfield Pines or Patterson Park rinks can attest to that. Yet-- somehow, someway, the early pioneers of the indoor skating concept got it right and it happened in Baltimore, no less. The rink was located, as far as I can tell, near where St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church is between Charles and St. Paul Streets, along 20th Avenue in Baltimore. As far as I can tell, the exact location of the rink wasn't designated and it is now a vacant lot.
The exact dimensions of the rink were described thanks to an except from the Baltimore Sun from December 27th, 1894 a day after the North Avenue Rink (later known as the North Avenue Casino and Sports Centre) first opened.
The building is of brick with a graystone front and iron roof, and is 75 feet by 300 feet. The skating surface is 55 feet by 250 feet on a foundation resting solidly on the ground. Seven consecutive floors were laid with interlinings of waterproof paper and wool. On this foundation is build a seamless pan, which contains the artificially frozen ice for skating. Over three and one-half miles of one and one-half inch pipe are laid throughout the pan. This is covered by four inches of water, which is frozen solid to 100 tons of ice in 37 hours.Saying it in an old-timey voice makes it even radder.
Now, for such a task to happen, you'd need a nuclear winter in most cases for that kind of speed in that day in age. However, someone, somewhere in Baltimore thought of a refrigeration system to which they probably rejoiced by throwing their index-finger in the air going "EUREKA!!" before stroking their beard in a old-timey way. Here comes the science.
The refrigerating system is by means of compressed liquefied ammonia allowed to expand in the pipes running through a brine tank. A zero cold results. The cold brine is then pumped through the pipe in the rink tank by the force of a 60-ton engine. The water is thus frozen into a solid mass of clear ice.So simple, yet so complex at the same time. While many folks back in the day only know of the outdoor skating, the indoor facility provided a nice comfort from the weather that came with skating outdoors. The North Avenue Rink make sure to cover that bit of annoyance thusly.
Around the skating surface is a promenade floor about two feet higher and separated from the rink by a solid partition. Gas stoves warm this part of the building in order to keep comfortable the spectators, who are provided with seats.There you go, the first skating rink around happened and it was in Baltimore of all places. The rink opening saw the Johns Hopkins University team take on the Baltimore Athletic Club team, playing to a 2-2 draw after their two-30 minute halves, which is another post for another time in the near future. After the game, the people in attendance were allowed out on the ice to test it out for themselves. The game brought out many interest onlookers from the Baltimore area, as well as some from as far north as New York.
It was a marvel for it's time, which is now in most every town around North America and overseas. Yet, it's odd how the times have changed where many are calling for more outdoor games, while back then-- many were calling for an indoor game every once and a while. And to think, the lore that the refrigeration unit was moved to the present-day First Mariner Arena.
I would like to thank Mr. Geoff Zonder, archivist of Yale University for pushing me in the right direction for getting this information, as well as the information in the upcoming post on the subject matter.