The proposed revival of a roller skating rink in Oak Bluffs calls to mind the grandeur of the one that occupied a place of honor in that town from 1878 to 1892.

Roller skating became a craze in the early 1870’s, and the first roller rink in the country was built in Worcester by a wealthy promoter named Samuel Winslow who had invented a new and improved type of skate, in 1876. The idea caught on with great speed, and by the time the rink at Oak Bluffs was completed, just about every able-bodied individual in the country was swooping around on roller skates.

The rink built by Mr. Winslow at the then Cottage City was a huge affair which cost three thousand dollars. Just across the street from the famed Sea View Hotel, it was constructed of shingles and had an iron roof on which flags flapped gaily in the breeze.

Seven hundred people were invited to the dedication of the new rink, and more came as well, so that the huge enclosure was crowded. Mr. Winslow and many prominent citizens of the Island, including Holder M. Brownell, manager of the Sea View, and Dr. H. A. Tucker, were on hand to give speeches of mutual congratulation. After a tour of inspection one of the instructors in the art of roller skating, a W. H. Purdy, gave a graceful exhibition of the possibilities of roller-skating. He was enthusiastically applauded. Then the spectators eagerly donned skates and got busy, and the festivities continued until late at night.

“The spacious and brilliantly lighted hall,: said the Gazette of July 11, 1879, “the elaborate decorations overhead, and the throng of merry skaters below made up a most brilliant and animated scene, and the enlivening strains of the orchestra in the balcony were all that was needed to make the enjoyment of the occasion complete.”

The magnificent rink was not, however, destined for too long an existence. In September, 1892, the fire that destroyed the Sea View Hotel jumped the road and burned the rink as well. Nothing but its iron roof and a few charred remains of the walls were left.

During the height of the rink’s popularity, a band was on hand most of the time so that the pleasure of skating were enhanced by music. Although the Vineyard has never since enjoyed a rink of such size and splendor, the sport of roller skating has continued to be popular here since it was first built.