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Brooklyn's Ice Palace

Oct 25, 2013 10:40 AM | 3 comments

It's not often we take patrons to the "Morgue," but during our recent Educator Open House, we took a group of teachers down to the basement of the library to see the old clippings and photographs of the Brooklyn Eagle.

Close-up of Celia Mallon and Connie Richichi working in file room or library at Brooklyn Eagle in Downtown Brooklyn. 1953.

While we were down there, I pulled a folder to show the teachers some of the remarkable photographs we have. I pulled, "Klopfer, Sonya*Ice Skater," and as the teachers made comments about the photo, I was more interested in learning about her, especially since I am a huge fan of ice skating.

Klopfer, prepping for the Olympics. November 3, 1951.

Ms. Klopfer was born in Brooklyn to immigrants who fled Germany under Hitler's reign. Although growing up she was very poor, Klopfer's parents encouraged her to skate. She trained in Brooklyn's old ice skating rink, the Brooklyn Ice Palace.  At 15, she became the youngest skater to win the US Ladies Championship and held that title until 1997, when Tara Lipinski won the championship at the age of 14.  Klopfer was a two-time world medalist in 1951 and 1952 and also placed 4th in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. Following her amateur career, she performed in the Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice.

As the case with most research excursions, you set off to research one thing, and go off in different directions. After I learned about Klopfer, I wanted to know more about the Brooklyn Ice Palace on Atlantic and Bedford Avenues, not too far from the current Barclays Center.  Located at 1163 Atlantic Avenue, the Brooklyn Ice Palace opened in 1917. Prior to its tenure as an ice skating rink, it was a roller skating rink and prior to that, a riding academy.

Desk Atlas, 1929.

On January 15, 1917, the Brooklyn Ice Palace opened and was described by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as the "largest artificial ice rink in the city, with 17,000 square feet of ice."  Brooklynites flocked to the rink and it became a huge success.  However, on March 23, 1918, in an effort to conserve materials for World War I, the State Ice Controller ordered the rink closed to help save ammonia and other articles used in the manufacture of artificial ice.

"Andra McLaughlin, who represents the Brooklyn Ice Palace in speed skating, has just been chosen to represent the U.S. in the world figure skating championships in Paris, Feb. 16 and 17..."

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 10, 1948

The Palace eventually reopened and during the summer was converted into a movie theatre with 2,500 seats and a pipe organ which was used in conjunction with a symphony orchestra.  Using the Ice Palace as a theatre proved to be very innovative; the Palace was one of the first known theatres to have a cooling system. However, it failed to make money with the movie project and fell into bankruptcy. It reopened in 1921 and continued unabated until 1937, when it was torn down and completely remodeled to become, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, one of the most spacious rinks in the country. The Palace endured two more remodels and new management in the 40s and 50s and in 1955, the rink was closed. It later reopened as a scenery design shop.

Manangement promising a skater the Palace would not close. Brooklyn Eagle, 1954.

While looking up information about the Ice Palace, I learned there was a professional NHL team, the Brooklyn Americans formerly the New York Americans, who practiced at the Palace during the 1941-42 season.  Bill Dwyer (best known as the "King of the Bootleggers" during Prohibition) purchased the defunct Hamilton Tigers from Ontario in 1925 for $75,000. He moved the team to New York and renamed them the New York Americans.  The Americans (or Amerks) went on to become the second United States team to join the National Hockey League (after the Boson Bruins) and played in the newly built Madison Square Garden. The Garden management was so impressed with the popularity of the Americans that they founded their own team, the New York Rangers, in 1926.  The Rangers quickly became the popular New York team while the New York Americans struggled; they only made it to the playoffs three times in fifteen years.

The New York Americans. Courtesy Wikipedia

Financial difficulties caused the NHL to take control of the team in 1936 and Mervin "Red" Dutton was placed in charge of them.  In 1941, Dutton moved himself and the team to Brooklyn.  He promised to build an arena, change thier name to the "Brooklyn Americans" and have them practice at the Brooklyn Ice Palace.  But with most of the team fighting in World War II, the Brooklyn Americans went down to only four players.  The league suspended them in 1942. The team was never revived and the arena was never built. Although little-known now, the team has had an intersting history.

In 2015, Brooklyn will once again have a hockey team--the Islanders are slated to move to Brooklyn and play in the Barclays Center.  This past September, history was made as the Islanders played against the Devils in the first ever NHL game in Brooklyn. 

A Conversation with Brooklyn Public Library's First Artist-in-Residence, Elizabeth Felicella -- Wednesday, October 30th, 7pm

Oct 23, 2013 12:37 PM | 0 comments

Elizabeth Felicella will discuss her work as an architectural photographer with Brooklyn Collection archivists Ben Gocker and Ivy Marvel, with special attention to how it relates to her photographs of the library archive that are included in the current exhibition, Brooklyn Public Library: An Open Book. An archive is typically deemed a repository of the past, compiled for the sake of posterity, the future; this public conversation, which is grounded in the collaborative relationship between photographer and archivist that has developed during Felicella’s time as Artist-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Public Library, presents an opportunity to consider the archive in the present tense and as an open, active endeavor.

image courtesy of the photographer

A wine and cheese reception, as well as distribution of tickets, will precede the event at 6:30 p.m. The Brooklyn Collection is located on the 2nd floor balcony of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. Seating is limited to 40.

High School Newspapers Make Headlines

Oct 10, 2013 4:00 PM | 0 comments

Some people would rather die than have their high school experiences splashed across the (blog) pages of one of the world's most widely read newspapers, but we imagine that Janet Yellen, who was recently nominated to head the Federal Reserve, has more important things on her mind.  The Brooklyn Collection, however, is not above basking for a moment in her reflected glory, as we've recently made news because we hold not just Ms. Yellen's Fort Hamilton High School yearbook, but also her high school newspaper, the Pilot, of which she was an editor. 

These heretofore unregarded pieces of history were featured in two New York Times blogs today, the City Room and Economix.  And if you're curious to see what other famous people we have hidden away in the pages of our yearbook collection, check out our earlier blog posts on famous Brooklyn alumni.

Open House and Tour of the Brooklyn Collection

Oct 1, 2013 10:37 AM | 0 comments

Every year the Archivists Round Table of Metrpolitan New York organizes a week of lectures, tours, workshops and open houses at cultural institutions around the city and calls it, fittingly, Archives Week.  The Brooklyn Collection will be participating in the festivities this year, with an open house and exhibit tour on Monday, October 7th, from 6 - 8pm

Like the sign says, "Library tours start here"

The event will include an introduction to our collections and programs, including the school outreach initiative, Brooklyn Connections. Visitors will also tour the exhibition "Brooklyn Public Library: An Open Book", which is on display throughout the Central Library and is drawn from materials in the Brooklyn Collection. Light refreshments will be served. The event is limited to 40 guests; please RSVP to Ivy Marvel at i.marvel@brooklynpubliclibrary.org to confirm your attendance.

Website: http://bklynpubliclibrary.org/brooklyncollection

Location: Brooklyn Public Library, 2nd Floor Balcony at Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY. 

RSVP to Ivy Marvel at i.marvel@brooklynpubliclibrary.org

Check out this site and interactive map to learn about other Archives Week events going on all over the city.  You can also follow the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York on Twitter at @ArchivistsRT and keep with up events with the hashtag . We hope you'll join us!  And if you can't wait until next Monday, here is a little introduction to the Brooklyn Collection to whet your whistle.