The rink attracted good skaters

from the archives of The News-Sentinel

Long before the current roller-skating craze caught on, there was a place in downtown Fort Wayne where people could go to strap on four wheels and ``meet for innocent amusement, safe and pleasant exercise and recreation.''

That place was The Rink. It opened in January 1870 at 215 E. Berry St.

It had room for 500 skaters and was also designed to accommodate fairs and assorted public meetings. Its owners billed it as a source of entertainment based ``on high moral grounds, where respectable people may meet.''

The Rink attracted many of the nation's top professional skaters but apparently not much else. By 1873 it was $10,000 in debt and was sold to meat packer Fred Eckart for $23.78 in 1876. After a time empty, it was a tobacco warehouse.

The Rink reopened in 1878 as a public hall, and by November of that year, it was ``the most desirable show house in the city,'' according to a glowing report in the Fort Wayne Daily Gazette. By that time The Rink had changed its name to the Academy of Music.

The next few years, some of the best comedy and variety shows in the country played at The Academy. But after a successful period in the early 1880s, the Academy fell on hard times.

In 1889, the name was changed to The Peoples Theater. The Peoples was just a neighborhood dime theater and apparently was not too successful. It folded in less than three years.

In 1902, The Elektron Building was built over the spot formerly occupied by The Rink. The Elektron Building is still standing today and is now called The Standard Building.

--Feb 2, 1982

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