Rinking Remixed: The Cultural Creation, Typology, and Preservation of Historic Roller Skating Rinks

No Thumbnail Available
Tillner, Olivia Lane
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Roller skating emerged in the nineteenth century and matured, reaching extreme popularity, in the twentieth century. Nearly everyone has roller skated, but no one usually takes the time to consider the places in which they skate. Roller rinks are likely dismissed because they are often associated with childhood and youth and are therefore deemed to have little historical significance. However, roller rinks were sites where young people formed identities, cultural tastes, and communities. The roller rink saw the dissemination of Rock and Roll and Disco. It saw discrimination, desegregation efforts, and the attempts of owners and patrons to thwart those efforts. Much like other recreation and leisure sites, patrons who frequented the roller rink did so out of their own free choice regarding the use of their time. Yet, because the historical and cultural significance of roller rinks is little known, they are easily demolished, and with them goes their significance. This dissertation explores the areas of significance attached to roller rinks, with an emphasis of youth culture and music, to reveal that this building type is worthy of, but also requires, preservation. Built on a fieldwork survey of roller rinks across the Southeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions, this dissertation develops a typology of roller rinks as well as integral elements of the buildings that reflect its their cultural and historical significance. With roller rinks seemingly fixed at a crossroads of the need to remain updated and relevant for audiences and the desire to maintain its historic integrity, this dissertation develops recommendations for preservation. The roller rink, however, does not exist on a landscape alone. It exists alongside other sites of leisure and recreation, sites that are equally deserving of preservation yet face similar crossroads. This dissertation serves as a guide for those seeking to preserve other recreational sites. The sites where we play are just as significant as those where we learn, worship, work, and live. As a site of play, the roller rink deserves the same inquiry and preservation afforded to others.