Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | January 2, 2016

Photograph of the Week. Cornwall Community Arena.

scan0001Stock certificate for the Cornwall Community Arena.  Original value $10.  These certificates routinely show-up in flea markets and yard sales, they no longer redeemable, but are of historic interest.

In the 1930s when Cornwall was truly a “hockey town” the Water Street Arena was its homes

Constructed out of necessity, after the destruction of the Victorian Rink, in the fire of 1933, Gertie Miron, Lyon Miller, Clarence Markel, and Aaron Horovitz organized the Cornwall Community Arena Fund, to raise funds for the building of a new facility  for senior hockey in Cornwall.

On May 4, 1936, the Cornwall Community Arena Citizen’s Committee decided to raised the building funds by issuing stocks at $10 a share.

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By May 29, the Committee had reached its goal and raised $60,000 from 2,300 local shareholders.

On June 12, the newly formed company appointed their board of directors with Mayor Horovitz as president, and informed their shareholders that they had purchased land from the Colquhoun estate for $4,000.

The building contract was awarded to Hodgins Lumber Company of Cornwall in early August, and the concrete and brick arena was completed within three months.

Open on November 16, 1936, a souvenir supplement of the “The Standard-Freeholder” boasted that the new “hockey plant” had, 1,587 “comfortable” wooden seats, plus standing room for 1,400 more fans.

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The arena’s interior circa 1940.

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March 1946.

The finished arena had a refreshment booth and telephone for patrons on the “promenade deck,” the Cornwall player’s bench was situated on the east side of the rink.  Almost totally insulated from the vibrations made by the ice-making machinery, the arena was illuminated “better than the Montreal Forum” by 32 big, 1,000 watt bulbs, each with a large reflector.

The greatest praise, however, was reserved for the “Three huge compressors of the arena freezing plant,” and the seven miles (more than 10 kilometres) of piping buried in sand…beneath the seats.”

Officially opened before 2,000 by Mayor Horovitz, Massena Mayor R.B. Newton and Cecil Duncan, president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, the crowd watched the Cornwall Flyers beat the Cornwall Canadiens 3 to 1.

The arena quickly turned into a community centre and served as the location for both travelling circus shows and the big bands of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo.

In 1961, the Community Arena refused to pay its $6,900 first mortgage held by Sun Life Assurance.  With the completion of the work on the Seaway and the closure of the cotton mills, and ensuing economic crisis, City Council was in no mood to bail the arena out.

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Rather than see the facility close, Mayor Nick Kaneb was able to secure a provincial grant of $5,000, which was topped up by the City, giving them ownership.

In 1994, the arena was renamed the Si Miller after in honour of his 30 years service as manager of the City Parks and Recreation programs.

With the building of the Benson Centre, the “Si” was no longer needed and demolished.  In January 2015 work started on building condos on the now vacant land.

These images and history are just some of the material covering Cornwall’s sports heritage in the archives at the Cornwall Community Museum and available for viewing.

 

 

 

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