Reminisce: ‘The roller-skating craze:’ Remembering the Lima Roller Rink

The building has stood for nearly a century at 545 W. Market St. Constructed in 1928 for Timmerman Motor Sales, it has been home to large firms like the Marvel Maid Garment Co. and the Perry Corp. as well as dozens of smaller ones.

In June, St. Rita’s Medical Center purchased it for office space.

Between 1939 and 1979, its top floor was occupied by a roller-skating rink. The rink was the destination of generations of Lima residents looking to strap on a pair of roller skates and go round and round to the music as Lima residents had been doing for almost as long as there had been skates to go round and round on.

According to the website for JSTOR Daily, roller skates as we know them were invented in 1863 by New Yorker James Plimpton, who then created a demand for them by offering lessons and opening the first rink. “His real genius, however, lay in marketing roller skating as an appropriate activity for men and women together, allowing young Victorian couples to meet without reprisal or rigid chaperoning,” according to the website.

Less than two decades later “skating on rollers” had reached Lima. In 1882, Lima’s Democratic Times reported that a rink had been opened in Jackson’s Hall. A couple of years later, the newspaper proclaimed a “craze” was underway in the city. For the next century and a half, Lima newspapers would, every decade or two, announce the city was in the throes of a roller-skating craze.

“The roller-skating craze struck this enterprising village last season, during the short period when Faurot’s Music Hall was used for that purpose,” the Times wrote December 13, 1884. “This splendid floor, and the pleasant surroundings, coupled with the fact that Stuebgen’s Orchestra was furnishing the very best of music made the rink very popular.”

The rink, however, was not popular with other tenants of the Faurot,” the Times noted. “The noise of the rolling skates almost drove the tenants of the building to distraction,” the newspaper explained. After an “injunction suit was threatened,” the Faurot rink was abandoned but was soon replaced by a rink on East Market Street.

“There was only one thing lacking to make Lima perfectly happy, and that was a roller-skating rink,” Cleveland’s Penny Press wrote in September 1884. “The town has got one now and is lying on its back and kicking its heels in the air for very joy.”

The Times was not “kicking its heels in the air for very joy,” offering words of caution instead. “While roller skating is very fascinating amusement for those who have become expert in the use of these treacherous little wheels, there is nothing but mental anguish and physical pain for the novice, who has concluded to learn to skate,” the newspaper wrote, adding that beginners should remember “roller skates are as deceptive as a banana peel.”

By the following February, the Times had decided roller skating was probably unhealthier for females. “There is eminent medical testimony to the effect that roller skating is especially dangerous to women and girls – especially to girls approaching womanhood; that women are not anatomically or physically fortified for the exercise, and the danger to them is grave,” the newspaper wrote Feb. 14, 1885.

In March 1885, the newspaper spelled out the general danger of roller skating. “Those who have the craze real bad, who skate every blessed afternoon and night, and there are a number of such, are easily distinguished upon the streets.” On leaving the rink after skating “like all possessed,” the newspaper explained, they “rush out into the cold air and let an Arctic wave roam all over their perspiring bodies. Soon they begin to grow thin, pale and emaciated, shadows of their former selves.”

Before too many young people became “shadows of their former selves,” the roller-skating craze waned and people turned to new fads, like golf. “Never was there a craze more utterly out of use than roller skating, and yet it was a prominent feature of social life only two or three years ago,” the Times gloated in March 1888.

The gloating was premature; roller skating was dormant, not dead, and its near absence had done wonders for its image. “Lima certainly has the roller-skating craze, and it is great sport too. Large crowds assemble at the Auditorium rink every afternoon and evening to enjoy this healthy exercise,” the Lima Times-Democrat wrote June 28, 1905.

Skating’s renewed popularity was evidenced by the new rinks that popped up in the city. The two-year-old Ohler Auditorium, which the Times-Democrat described as “the most popular dance hall and convention auditorium the city ever had,” was converted into a roller-skating rink in May 1905. That same month, the Lima Daily News announced work was beginning on a new rink to be known as the Majestic on North Union Street between Market and High streets, about two blocks east of the Auditorium, which was in the 200 block of North Elizabeth Street.

At the Auditorium rink, the Lima Daily News wrote in June 1905, “Everything is conducted on the highest plane, and the etiquette of the dancing academy is retained in even a more marked degree.” The manager, the newspaper assured its readers, “preserves the strictest decorum, no unknown characters being admitted…”

Both the Auditorium and the Majestic were short-lived. In August 1907, the Daily News reported the “spacious Majestic skating rink on Union Avenue” would be converted into “an elegant up-to-date automobile garage.” The Auditorium, meanwhile, had reverted to a dance hall by 1911.

Predictably, in March 1915, the Daily News reported the “roller skating craze” had returned. “From morning until late at night, all classes and ages of people are propelling themselves along Lima streets on roller skates,” The Lima Newspaper wrote March 23, 1915. “Instead of ‘Tangoing’ to school, which some teachers accused their pupils of doing, they are now arriving at school on roller skates and in plenty of time, too.”

Meanwhile, rinks, like those at Hover and McCullough parks, continued to open in the city. In May 1916, the Lima Republican-Gazette reported plans were afoot to build an “oval-shaped track” for roller skaters around an outdoor dance floor in Ashton Hollow, an area just south of the Main Street bridge.

Although its unclear if the Ashton Hollow rink was ever built, others were, including the Lima Roller Rink, which opened in 1939, the year after Marvel Maid, which manufactured rayon and cotton garments for women, closed its factory at 545 W. Market St. Other popular rinks included the Victoria Roller Rink on West North Street just off North Main Street, the Dixie Roller Rink on South Dixie Highway, which opened in the late 1940s and touted a “slip-proof floor,” and the Greenlawn Roller Rink, which opened in 1960 at 1601 McClain Road. All closed years ago.

In 1970, Betty Ray, who had worked at the Dixie Roller Rink, purchased the old Lima Roller Rink and renamed it Skylite Skate Arena. It closed in 1979. On March 31, 1978, Ray opened Edgewood Skate Arena at 2170 Edgewood Drive.

On Oct. 8, 1978, The Lima News wrote that “America is rediscovering roller-skating fad…”


This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.


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Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected].