Tropical Ice Gardens

Tropical Ice Gardens under construction

The Tropical Ice Gardens, a huge outdoor, all-year ice rink, opened in November 1938. It was located at the edge of the UCLA campus, on the southwest corner of Weyburn and Gayley.

The tower on the left of the top photo is a building at Weyburn and Westwood Blvd. At the time, it housed Chadwick's Drug Store. The Fox and Bruin Theatres are just out of the photo on the left, as is Le Conte, the street which divides the UCLA campus and Westwood Village. The domed structure at the right of the photo was originally a Bank of America at Westwood Blvd. and Broxton, but it has housed many other businesses in subsequent years. The street visible just beyond the construction is Gayley, the one with the black and white car driving on it.

Tropical Ice Gardens preparing for opening The Tropical Ice Gardens opened in Westwood on November 28, 1938, the the Los Angeles Times enthusing, "NEITHER SUN NOR DESERT WIND SHALL KEEP LOS ANGELES FROM SKATING." The story, which appeared on opening day said, "'The St. Moritz Express,' carrying ice performers of two continents, arrives at the Tropical Ice Gardens in Westwood Vllage for a premiere showing tonight before an audience which will include leaders of the screen, society and sports world.

The giant plant--only a dream several months ago--stands today as the only all-year outdoor ice rink in the world.

Above all a skating rink, Tropical Ice Gardens will at times stage such spectacles as 'The St. Moritz Express.' Plans also call for the coming of big league ice hockey to Westwood's arena, which can seat 12,000 persons.

Dr. Arthur Brandt, three times producer of the ice carnival at St. Moritz, directs the opening performance. Spectacular lighting effects and costumes have been arranged.

Skaters enjoy Tropical Ice Gardens
Lois Dworshak, the original 'Rhythm Girl,' will be a special attraction, as America's principal entrant in the competition for public fancy tonight. Her 'hot' numbers will be augmented by the music of Ted Fio Rito and his orchestra, engaged for the run of the show.

"For comedy there will be Eric Wait, whose 'Grandma Did It' act was performed before the King and Queen of England. He will have competition from Frick and Frack, a Swiss comedy team.

Another Continental champion of Chris Heierle, professional solo titlist of Switzerland. Rounding out the list are Adele Inge, 12 year old acrobatic skaer, Mary Jane Yeo, 16, from Chicago and Orrin Markhus and Irma Thomas, the 'Castles of the Ice' [this refers to famed dancers Vernon and Irene Castle. Orrin and Irma would later become 'The Old Smoothies' and performed for years in the Ice Follies, as did Mr. Frick [of Frick and Frack, listed above], besides a chorus of 30 men and women."

Ione Tefkin and Barbara Blech
The rink hosted many hockey games and was extremely popular with the general public. By March, 1941, a show called Ice Frolics played at the arena. The spectacular numbers included a "chute slide" featuring Jimmy Cesar and Red Bennett. The pair slid down a 250-foor chute, about as high as a 12-story building and had a slant of 45 degrees. The program was one of "music, uproarious comedy and graceful performers." There was a cast of 65, topped by the internationally famous Maribel Vinson and Guy Owen, who skated both pair numbers and solos.

There was a military number starring Carrol Lynn, plus numbers by Mae Ross, "California's own Rhythm Girl" and Charlie the horse. The program also featured a rhumba-conga and ensemble numbers. Other stars of the show included Henry Lei, Norwegian medalist, who will perform on stilt skates, Angela Anderes, five times Swiss champion. "Daffy Doug" Duffy did an apache number where he tossed his partner, Rosita, into the laps of rinksiders. Ione Tefkin and Barbara Blech, of the ensemble, are pictured.

The rink continued to prosper and a USFSA-sanctioned club took up residence at the rink. According to its website, the All Year Figure Skating Club was organized in 1939 by a small group of enthusiastic skaters under the leadership of Mrs. Ann Rork Getty at the Tropical Ice Gardens in Westwood Village. The club developed rapidly along with the popularity of the sport and held both Junior and Senior sessions. Among the club professionals were Eugene Mikeler, Hubert Sprott and Helen Gage Moore. Helen taught at club sessions at Culver Ice Arena until her death.

Model of the Tropical Ice Gardens
In 1945 the Mercury Figure Skating Club lost its ice and was invited to share the Westwood rink. The two clubs then merged to become the All Year-Mercury FSC. After a short time Mercury FSC disbanded and the club again became known as All Year Figure Skating Club. Sometime before its demise, there was a Sonja Henie Skating Club based at the Westwood rink.

The club suffered a severe setback in 1949, when the Westwood rink -- by this time known as the Sonja Henie Ice Palace -- was torn down to accommodate expansion of UCLA. Arrangements were made to conduct sessions at the Pan Pacific Arena, but a year later that rink discontinued its ice...and All Year FSC was again without a home. Through the courtesy of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, one session a week was acquired at Hollywood's Polar Palace.

Destruction
But the AYFSC was to suffer again when Polar Palace burned down in 1963. Fortunately, Culver Ice Arena had just opened and the club moved there, where it remains today.

Sometime in the 1940s, Sonja Henie, who was making films at Twentieth Century-Fox and touring in her ice show the rest of the year, acquired the arena and renamed it Sonja Henie's Ice Palace. It is uncertain whether she actually used the arena for her shows, which were based in Chicago and in 1938 had begun playing at Polar Palace when in Los Angeles, but it is likely. But fire struck again, this time after the arena was closed and scheduled for demolition, and the place collapsed May 5, 1950. The site is today occupied by UCLA buildings.




Polar Palace

Palais de Glace

Pasadena Winter Garden

Sutro's