Wollman Rink first welcomed skaters in 1950, as a safer alternative to the unpredictability of lake skating, a celebrated tradition in place since the park opened to the public in 1858. After inheriting a securities fortune, Kate Wollman, a philanthropist and resident of the Waldorf Astoria, financed the rink’s construction. She hoped it would “bring happiness to the children that use it.” Over the years, Ms. Wollman was known to sit alone on a terrace overlooking the action, watching skaters, and she personally presented awards for the annual children’s competitions. More than 300,000 skaters visited the rink in its first year, and by 1953 it welcomed its millionth visitor. That same year, one Mildred Donnelly tried to sidestep the spotlight and the prize of a free pair of skates, The Times hypothesized, because she and her friends had skipped worked to skate. (She insisted they hadn’t.)

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