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Napanee Arena: Adding the Colour

Skaters getting ready to go on opening night at Napanee Arena in December 1955

By Jim Sova

At the Archives, we regularly receive requests for some particular fact.  It can be a date related to an ancestor, or information about when golf first started in the Napanee area.  Sometimes I am asked to look through the newspaper collection to see if I can find the fact they are looking for.  After the recent disastrous fire at the former Napanee Arena on the morning of October 23rd, we received an inquiry about a time capsule that had been placed at the Arena.  I searched the newspapers from around the time of the Arena’s construction and initially did not find a reference to the time capsule, but I did find a lot of other interesting information.  This said, Heather, the Archivist, did find information on the time capsule in the December 22nd, 1955 issue of The Post-Express. An article on page one indicates a corner stone was laid outside the Arena by Mayor Lorne Smart’s son, Teddy. Placed inside this corner stone were issues of the previous week’s papers covering the Arena’s opening, 1955 coins, and then names of town council members, the Arena commission, and the original executive committee. 

Although the information I originally unearthed did not answer the time capsule question, it does provide a lot of background to the construction of our beloved Arena.  I call this “Adding the Colour” to the initial fact that was asked, because it gives a lot context to the significance of the time capsule.  In genealogy, I love to find the stories that surround the facts of when and where an ancestor was born, lived and died.  Sometimes it may be a prison record and the newspaper stories of the case that put them there, or a business newsletter that profiled them as a valued employee of the business.  The stories bring the person to life and help us understand the person and their time. 

Here is some of the “Added Colour” I found in my search for the Napanee Arena time capsule.

Building the Napanee Arena
The Napanee Arena after the July 5th,1955 wind storm.

Construction on the Arena for Napanee was a dream with fundraising campaigns starting after World War Two. The main fundraising began in 1954.  The initial target was $131,500.  The Napanee Beaver and The Post-Express newspapers are full of details of the fundraising, including a Peanut Drive by the Women’s Community Centre Group and a Community Auction. The newsworthy specifics of who was giving what was down to $5.00 and below.

The original fundraising target included artificial ice.  However, in April 1955, a contract was signed after $105,000 had been raised to cover the $106,000 price for the building portion only.  The expectation was that the building would be completed in time for the Napanee Fair anniversary in September 1955. 

The sod turning took place in early May.  Construction was well underway with the walls erected when a windstorm with “tornado like winds” on July 5th took down three of the four walls. The picture above is not one of the Arena after the recent fire, but after the windstorm in 1955. The damage was estimated at $40,000! It was covered by insurance and the building was partially completed by the time of the Fair.  

Fundraising was then redoubled to bring in the $25,000 that was needed for artificial ice. In October, the Committee was still $7,500 short of the artificial ice equipment target, but facing a deadline, the ice was ordered. 

The fundraising was accomplished, the Arena completed and on December 17th, 1955, the Arena opened debt free. This event made the headlines in Napanee and Toronto.

Click the images below to expand and read some headlines and articles!


In 1955, Napanee residents were alarmed to hear of the collapse of the arena in Listowel, Ontario. At the time of the fundraising, pictures and room layouts of the Listowel Arena were used for publicity. Although the contractor was given the layout of the Listowel Arena to draw the plans, none of the blueprints from Listowel were used and Listowel was rebuilt by a different contractor. 

Listowel Arena, The Napanee Beaver, May 11th, 1955, page 1
Keeping Stories of the Napanee Arena Alive!

Am I sorry that I did not initially get the details about the time capsule? Yes, I always like to answer the request, but sometimes the information gleaned along the way can prove even more interesting than the information you were looking to find in the first place.

Tag the Museum on social media (Facebook or Instagram) as you reminisce about your own memories of the Napanee Arena! And feel free to stop by the Archives to learn more and browse the local newspapers.

If you have any photographs of the Napanee Arena that can add even more colour its stories, please contact the Archives by email at or by calling 613-354-3027 x 3523!

 Let’s keep the history and stories of the Napanee Arena alive!

Five-year old Joe Wightman's first time on skates at the Napanee Arena in December 1955.
From The Napanee Beaver, December 22, 1955 (page 1).
Newspaper Issues Featuring the Napanee Arena

Here is a list of The Post-Express and The Napanee Beaver newspaper articles I found about the building and opening of the Napanee Arena (this is by no means exhaustive!):

  • The Post-Express
    • July 7, 1955 (page 1) – “3 walls of community centre collapse, damage is $40,000”
    • May 5th, 1955 (page 1) – “Construction starts at community centre” and “Volunteer help given opportunity on centre”
    • December 21, 1955 (page 1) – “Arena opens, 2,000 present” and “Tot, 5, cuts ribbon, kids surge onto ice”
    • January 5, 1956 (page 1) – “Contractor gets last cheque for the arena” and “$1,400 more comes in for the community centre”
  • The Napanee Beaver
    • April 20, 1955 (page 1) – “To build a community arena”
    • April 27, 1955 (pages 1,2) – “Text of arena contract”
    • May 4, 1955 (page 1) – “Site prepared: Arena construction starting this week”
    • May 11, 1955 (page 1) – “First sod turned for arena”
    • May 18, 1955 (page 1) – “Calendar: Arena fund raising activities”
    • June 1, 1955 (page 1) – “County give $1,000 cheque to new arena”
    • June 15, 1955 (pages 1,6) – “Report presented on community centre fund”
    • July 6, 1955 (page 1) – “Wind storm lashes district”
    • July 13, 1955 (pages 1,3)- “Check arena work, clean bill given” and “Arena artificial ice plant is in doubt”
    • August 19, 1955 (page 1) – “Getting ready to roof arena”
    • September 14, 1955 (pages 1, 3) – “Drive on for artificial ice”
    • September 21, 1955 (page 1) – “Artificial ice fund climbs to $5000.00”
    • October 12, 1955 (page 1) – “Only four day left artificial ice drive”
    • Ocotber 19, 1955 (pages 1, 3) – “$7500 short, but ice ordered”
    • October 26, 1955 (pages 1, 3) – “In by December: Artificial ice for arena is explained”
    • December 7, 1955 (page 1) – “Volunteers in action”
    • December 14, 1955 (pages 1, 3) – “Arena will open debt-free”
    • December 21, 1955 (pages 1-3) – “Why the arena was built…” and “Skating returns to Napanee”
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