This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Editor's note • In this regular series, The Salt Lake Tribune explores the once-favorite places of Utahns, from restaurants to recreation to retail.
While ice-skating rinks can be found throughout Utah today, there was only one statewide for much of a generation.
Hygeia Iceland opened at 1208 E. 2100 South in Sugar House during the record-cold winter of 1948. It was a Utah favorite until a fire on Dec. 11, 1985, destroyed its ice-making plant, which had been in operation since the Free family incorporated it in 1912.
Hygeia Iceland and later addition Swimland relied on materials and compressors used in the ice business to become Utah's first ice rink and to create one of its first heated pools.
Roy Free started the ice-making business, and his son, Ray, delivered ice via a horse-drawn wagon at a time when refrigerators weren't common.
Charles Free, Roy's grandson, explains, "The compressors were not used in the winter and we had excess capacity. So we used the same compressors they used to make the ice in the summer. The ice-skating rink was open just during the winter."
The family later put a slick cement surface on the rink for summer roller-skating. At one point, there also was a miniature golf course on the site.
For many years, the Olympic-size swimming pool, built in the late 1950s, was the only heated pool in the valley open for public use.
"The swimming pool was heated using excess steam from the dry ice," Charles Free said. "We would use it to condense the water and then pump it back."
Louise Hoggan managed the ice rink and swimming pool for more than 35 years, including when it opened. After the 1985 fire destroyed the plant, "I could go into a corner and bawl," she told Salt Lake Tribune reporter Ben Ling. She remembered an earlier fire at the ice company in 1949 shortly after Hygeia Iceland opened.
Joe Hoggan, Louise's son, grew up at Hygeia, and remembers his mother's office had a big window that faced 2100 South. After heavy snowstorms, kids would slide down the hilly parking lot.
"She liked to say that she never worked a day in her life," Hoggan recalled.
He credits his mother with organizing junior hockey in the Salt Lake Valley. Louise worked with the Salt Lake Figure Skating and Utah Figure Skating clubs and knew the Zamboni family who invented the famous ice-scraping machine (and had ties to Utah).
In the days before the Zamboni, Hoggan said, Hygeia used an old World War II Jeep. It pulled a heavy iron rig with a blade to cut the ice down and a box that dragged behind and collected the snow. There was a big tank of hot water on the back of the Jeep that released water to create the smooth new surface. The process took about a half-hour.
"When there was a new sheet of ice, it was the most perfect ice in the world," he said. "Speed skaters, hockey players and figure skaters loved it. It was the only ice-skating rink in Salt Lake City until they opened the Salt Palace."
Sugar House historian Lynne Olsen has a copy of a 1957 Utah Figure Skating Club program for an event held at Hygeia Iceland. The Salt Lake Golden Eagles hockey team, an original occupant of the old Salt Palace in 1969, used Hygeia as a practice rink.
"When the Golden Eagles hockey team practiced at Hygeia, we would always line up about a dozen glasses of water next to the dressing room so they would have a place for their false teeth," remembers Hoggan, who worked for the team. "We switched them around once, but they caught on fast and everyone had a great laugh."
He said that after the roller rink was poured by the Free family, local disc jockey Mel Remy would host a sock hop every Friday night during the summer.
"We must have had 300 to 400 high-schoolers attend the dances each week," Hoggan said. "You could win 45 rpm singles from Mr. Remy. After I started working for the Golden Eagles in 1969 in the penalty box, Mr. Remy was the first rink-side announcer for those pro hockey games."
Ray Free, who helped begin many businesses in the Sugar House area and ran the merchants' association for years, sold the family interest in Carbo Chemical Co., the ice-making complex, Hygeia Iceland and Swimland to Clark Financial Corp. in November 1983.
The fire put an end to the operation. These days, a hotel and fast food franchise sit on the property that provided so many good memories and so much recreation to thousands of Salt Lake Valley families for two generations.
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