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Excelsior Roller Rink

Downtown Kalamazoo Entertainment Venue (1884–1890)


East side of Portage Street, north of South Street. Located behind and beside the residence at 131 Portage Street (entrance off South Street).

Built by Calvin Forbes and operated as a roller skating rink by A.M. Dayton from 10 November 1884 until May 1891. Not a theater per se, the Excelsior Rink hosted skating contests and events, plus other forms of entertainment, including dances, concerts, and other social and political events.

Construction began during the first week of October 1884; the rink opened to the public on Monday evening, 10 November 1884.

sanborn-map-1887-excelsior-rink
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (detail), 1887 Local History Room. Inset: Kalamazoo Gazette, 31 October 1884, p.3

“Kalamazoo can boast of one of the very finest rinks in the United States, and by far the best in Michigan. This new building is located on Portage street, immediately south of the residence and to the rear of Mr. Joseph Daniels’ residence on Portage street. It is 75 by 130 feet, with jointed and deadened floor, circled at the ends. The hall has a seating capacity for spectators outside of the main floor, for eight hundred people and is provided with nice opera chairs. The floor will accommodate nine hundred skaters and is certainly one of the finest rooms of the kind in America. The building is to be heated with steam and lit with gas. There are fine ladies’ and gent’s dressing rooms furnished with first class furniture and also a good check room. The manager, Mr. A.M. Dayton, is a gentleman who thoroughly understands the business and will look closely after the interests of the public. The rink will be opened to the public, Monday evening.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, October 31, 1884, p.3


“It is worth more than the price of admission at the Excelsior rink to listen to the music of Balcom’s Orchestra. The rink orchestra is entirely separate and distinct from the Academy of Music orchestra of which Mr. Balcom is also leader. This orchestra had been organized expressly for the rink, and it is thought by competent judges that there is no better.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 7 January 1885, p.3

Western Cart Company

From 1886 to 1889, the building was occupied by the Western Cart Company, a local manufacturer of buckboards, roadcarts and wagons. Company president, Luke Cooney, Jr., who maintained the 6,000 square foot Excelsior Rink within the same building, was a well known local businessman and inventor. Cooney held patents for such items as a grain separator, water and air motor, gas generator, air compressor, gas and steam engine, adding machines, voting machines and a cash register. Cooney studied law at Kalamazoo College, and later became Secretary and General Manager of the Chicago Cash Register Company.

In 1891, the building operated for a brief time as H.B. Sortor, manufacturer of handmade stone hammers and stone cutter’s tools.

Sources

Articles

“The Excelsior roller rink”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 31 October 1884, p.3


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Theater

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