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Winter Garden at Exposition Hall

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The Winter Garden
The Expo
Full name The Winter Garden at Exposition Hall
Location Site of Point State Park,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Flag of the United States United States
Broke ground 1885
Built 1885-1889
Opened 1889 (Expositions)
Renovated 1916 (Renovated for Hockey)
Closed 1920
Demolished 1941 (Music Hall)
1942 (Machinery Hall)
July 2, 1951 (Main Hall)
Owner Pittsburgh Exposition
Operator Pittsburgh Exposition
City of Pittsburgh
Surface Ice, Wood
Construction cost $1,000,000
$600,000 (Renovation)
Architect Joseph Stillburg
Main Contractors Murphy & Hamilton
Marshall Foundry & Construction Company
Tenants Western Pennsylvania Hockey League
Field Dimensions 300' X 140'

The Winter Garden at Exposition Hall was Pittsburgh's third major indoor skating rink which lasted from 1916 to 1920. It stood at the current site of Point State Park. The facility consisted of three buildings: Main Hall, Music Hall and Machinery Hall. The Exposition was originally supposed to be a place for social gatherings where ideas and goods could be freely exchanged. However the facility later became Pittsburgh's premier indoor hockey rink.


Early BeginningsEdit

In 1885, the Western Pennsylvania Exposition Society, commonly called the Pittsburgh Exposition, were determined to have a venue that offered the feel of a county fair with the mystique of a World's Fair. A year after the society formed, the Pittsburgh City Council approved the purchase of land at the Point along the shore of the Allegheny River and granted a lease for 50 years. Life memberships and popular subscriptions raised nearly $1 million to complete the construction. The first Exposition took place in September 1889 and was open to both Pittsburgh and out-of-state residents.

The Expo had a daily average attendance of 10,000 during the fall months. Many visitors were attracted to the automobile, poultry and trade shows, while others gathered to enjoy the best orchestras and bands in the nation. Victor Herbert and John Phillip Sousa both played at the Exposition.

Fashion shows from New York City and Paris attracted high society women while free samples of balloons, popcorn and dairy products captured the attention of ordinary citizens. A roller coaster, ferris wheel and merry-go-round captivated the children of the region. The complex had 100000 sqft of exhibit space, an art gallery and the Music Hall that held 5,500 patrons. People travelled from great distances to join the locals; many wealthy patrons travelled up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to moor their houseboats along the Allegheny's shore behind the Exposition site.

However disaster struck the Expo in 1901, when the complex was destroyed by a fire on St. Patrick's Day. Wind-blown embers from a stable fire on Duquesne Way engulfed the great Main Hall. Machinery Hall was the only survivng building on the six acre site. Most of the Exposition was rebuilt at a cost of $600,000 and included new versions of Machinery Hall, the Main Hall and the Music Hall. The new Main Hall was constructed of steel, stone and massive brick walls. The Main Hall's heavy doors were adorned with cut white stone and the interior was decorated and illuminated by 1,500 incandescent lights under a vaulted and girdered ceiling.

Move to HockeyEdit

During this time public interest in ice skating was growing in Pittsburgh and that interest served was the focus for converting the Main Hall into the Winter Garden. Also due to World War I and a polio epidemic, the annual Exposition would be forced to an end in 1916. Hockey captured the fancy of local enthusiasts at the Duquesne Gardens which was located in Oakland, Pennsylvania. However ice time at the Gardens was scarce and demand for hockey was growing. So in 1915, chiller pipes and concrete were added to the floor of the Main Hall to convert it into an impressive sheet of ice. Using the latest technology, the ice freezing system pumped an ice forming solution at a rate of 15,000 gallons every minute to produce a minus 30 temperature on the floor.

Exposition Hall 1898

Exposition Hall in 1898

Each year the Winter Garden was still in operational from November until April 1 for ice hockey. Many teams in the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League which included teams such as the Pittsburgh Keystones, Pittsburgh Duquesne, Pittsburgh Lyceum and Pittsburgh Fort Pitt used the Winter Garden for matches. Soon after one of Pittsburgh's earliest women's league formed at the Winter Garden. The size of the ice made hockey matches grueling tests of endurance and heavily favored the home teams. Visitors found the 300' x 140' playing surface too large. By comparison, today's NHL rinks measure 200' x 85'.

The biggest hockey match witnessed at the Winter Garden featured the great Hobey Baker on March 24, 1917. Baker, a star football and hockey player from Priceton, played an exhibition game with a cast of players from Philadelphia. Baker scored all three Philadelphia goals, including a the game winner in the third overtime period. It was the final hockey game Baker would play. He died in France while serving in World War I.

Creation of Point State ParkEdit

The Winter Garden's last local hockey match was played in 1920. An agreement of sale of the Exposition property was reported in the April 9, 1920 edition of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but a transfer was never finalized. Pittsburgh city council agreed to lease and used the Expo property for the city's auto pound. The lease ended 20 years later in 1934. The Music Hall was demolished in 1941 and Machinery Hall was dismantled in 1942 to secure scrap metal for the World War II effort. The Main Hall was the last remaining building until 1951 when the structure was torn down to make way for the 37 acre Point State Park.


Preceded by
Duquesne Gardens
Pittsburgh Hockey Venues
Winter Garden at Exposition Hall

1916 – 1920
Succeeded by
Duquesne Gardens

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Winter Garden at Exposition Hall. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ice Hockey Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).

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