A Passion for Ice Skating: James Parrish in Photographs

James Cresson Parrish (1840-1926) – the older brother of Samuel Parrish – was a financier with a massive fortune stemming from the railroad reorganizations between the 1870s and 1880s. Receiving an education at Harvard, he represented Dutch interests while living in the United States, while also spending additional time in Amsterdam. He made many contributions to the Rogers Memorial Library, the Parrish Art Museum and many more of Samuel’s projects during his time. When he passed away in July of 1926, he left behind his loving family – consisting of his brother Samuel, his daughter Caroline “Helen” Parrish Brown, and his son James C. Parrish Jr – as well as his highly valued estates in both Southampton and Manhattan.


James was known for his passion for ice skating during the winter period, which he often did with his family. Ice skating was a popular recreation for people during the early 20th century during cold winters, just as it is today. Within the Southampton History Museum’s collection, there are many photos depicting James ice skating either by himself, with a partner, or indeed with his family.


Records and deeper information on each particular photo is scarce, however these photos are perfectly emblematic of exactly how near and dear to James’ heart the activity of ice skating truly was during his lifetime.


The first photo we have depicts James and his family walking through the snow together. This would be a commonplace seasonal scene for the Parrish Family considering James’ fondness for ice skating.


James faces away from the camera as he skates with a partner. An additional ice skater can be seen behind them, as two onlookers are seated on a bench at the edge of the ice. Notice the snow-covered mountains in the background.


In this photo, we have James ice skating at the same venue as depicted above. The mountain ridges in the background indicate this is the same ice as previously seen. Presumably he’s seen skating here with a different partner from above.


James ice skates with a woman partner in this photo, taken in 1900. Two women can also be seen just on the right edge of the photograph, towards the building right at the edge of the ice.


James can be seen here ice skating at St. Moritz, as part of a 1909 card wishing the recipient a Happy New Year.


In this photo we see James on the ice alongside two women, with this photo being taken in Lakewood, New Jersey circa 1920. In relief text on the bottom, the photo reads "J. BABITT, Lakewood, N.J., 227.4th St."


This photo of James, accompanied by a partner, was taken at the Garden City Golf Club on March 10th, 1926. This photo was taken only a few short months before James passed away. The Garden City Golf Club was founded in 1899, additionally known as the “Garden City Men’s Club” to distinguish it from other private venues in Garden City at the time. Presumably the ice James is skating upon is that of Lake Cornelia, otherwise nicknamed “Hubbel’s Pond” (both names are based on the found of Garden City’s wife and Garden City’s first mayor, respectively).


Our final photograph depicts an ice skating party featuring James, believed to have been taken at Old Town Pond in Southampton. Parrish’s family is seen ice skating around him, bringing him to the frozen pond to enjoy some time on the ice. The photograph is rather lighthearted, presenting James and his family as rather joyful. His daughter Helen, accompanied by her own children, joins him while out on the ice. Even in his later years, James still found time to continue with his passion to get on the ice, especially alongside his family.


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