Going for Gold: Chicago’s History with Winter Sports

The 2018 Winter Olympics begin February 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea. Looking to get into the Olympic spirit? Check out our recommendations for remembering 1980's Miracle on Ice, exploring different sports and events with the kids in your life, memoirs of famous athletes and winter sports movies.

But maybe you want even more? Well, look no further than Chicago's past to get more Olympic vibes. Chicago has hosted several international sporting competitions, from the Pan American Games in 1959 to the Special Olympics beginning in 1968 to the Gay Games in 2006. And while spectating is the closest most of us will get to a real gold medal, that hasn't stopped amateur athletes here in Chicago from embracing our wintery climate throughout the city's history to enjoy a variety of winter sports.

You can visit Special Collections at Harold Washington Library Center to read how Chicago's park administrators encouraged Chicagoans to get active in winter. The 1917 publication Playgrounds and Recreation Centers of the West Chicago Park Commissioners explains how in each park, "the play field is flooded in the winter time, in order that people may enjoy the invigorating sport of ice skating."

You can also view a brochure in our Chicago City-Wide Collection that promotes a state-of-the-art indoor ice skating rink at Broadway and Thorndale that was ultimately turned into a National Guard Armory.

Find out what kind of ice skates you could have bought in the 1920s from Chicago-based Nestor Johnson Manufacturing Company in our Trade Catalog Collection. The catalogs also list results of speed skating competitions.

And visit our Neighborhood History Research Collection and our Chicago Park District Collections to see photographs of people enjoying such winter sports as cross-country skiing, ice skating and speed skating, ski jumping (yes, really!), sledding and dog sledding, ice boat racing, sledge hockey and more.

What's your favorite winter sport?

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