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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

Throwback Thursday: Potter Lake Skate Edition

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

There’s only light patchy snow on Mount Oread right now, but the cold weather means that Potter Lake is frozen enough for ice skaters.

Photograph of people ice skating on Potter Lake, 1926

Ice skating on Potter Lake, 1926. Notice the diving board on the far side.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Potter Lake 1926 Prints:
Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

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2 Responses to “Throwback Thursday: Potter Lake Skate Edition”

Very cool picture! It must be the first ice skating picture on campus?

Thanks for your comment.

There may be at least one photo taken of skating on Potter Lake prior to the 1926 image in the blog post. In a search through existing prints, I was able to locate a photo with the date “1920s” written on the back. The image has a caption that reads, “The accompanying view was photographed during the early January cold weather when skating was popular on Potter’s Lake.” There are several vehicles parked around the lake in the photo. The cars appear to be model-T Fords, but it is difficult to tell for sure. The photo has a title, “The Completed North Side of the Administration Building.” Strong Hall was built in stages in 1911, 1918, and 1923 –which adds to the evidence that this image of skating on Potter Lake might be earlier than 1926.

Potter Lake was added to the campus of KU in 1910 with the original purpose of providing a reserve water supply in case of fire. In my research, I found an article in the University Daily Kansan from January 9, 1913, that seems to imply that this was the first time students and faculty were making an argument that the lake should be cleared of snow for ice skating. Proposals of various methods for clearing the lake’s surface were discussed such as encouraging all students to cut class after chapel to sweep the lake with brooms, hosting a “laws” versus “engineers” snowball fight to remove the snow, and blowing off the snow with steam using a hose from the heating plant. Many of the girls interviewed were excited about the skating and offered that “serving chocolate and doughnuts” might help raise money for the girls’ dormitory fund.

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist, Public Services
Spencer Research Library

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