History of the Portage Curling Club
The Scottish sport of curling became a noted pastime in many Scottish-American communities. Although Portage itself did not possess a large Scottish population, the adjacent towns of DeKorra and Caledonia included a large settlement. As at other early centers of Scottish population such as Milwaukee, once this group introduced the sport of curling, the community adopted it as its own. Curling was played by 1850 in the towns adjacent to Portage. The first club at least informally organized in Portage about 1850-1851. Each club probably included multiple teams which were each composed of four individuals. The Portage curling team known as the Crusaders won the International Curling Trophy at Winnipeg in 1879. Eventually, clubs also organized at Arlington, Pardeeville, Lodi, and Poynette. With numerous clubs in existence, the Portage Curling Association organized and formed a stock company in 1910. The membership then totaled fifty. By 1929, a similar organization called the Wisconsin State Curling Association placed its headquarters in Portage at the curling rink near the Wisconsin River locks.
Curling was played on the Milwaukee River by the Scots as early as the 1840s, and the Milwaukee Curling Club was organized in 1854. Thus, Portage's club may be one of the first or second established in Wisconsin. Game paraphenalia included stones, composed first of wood or iron and later of granite and surmounted by handles. At Portage, iron replaced wood stones in about 1870, and John Graham, the druggist, purchased granite stone from Leith, Scotland about 1880.
In Portage, the curlers initially played near the bank of the Wisconsin River and on Silver Lake. In 1879, the group erected a shed over the canal which sheltered two sheets of ice. In 1889, J.H. Wells purchased a former roller skating rink at the northwest corner of Wisconsin and Conant and converted it to a curling rink. Later, the group placed an enclosed rink on the site of the creamery at 233 W. Edgewater. In addition, the canal was again utilized at this time. In 1910, the association continued to use these latter two sites for a while and constructed its enclosed four rink curling rink south of the canal and adjacent to the Wisconsin River. By 1923, the Curling Association sold their other rinks and added five sheets, a lobby, and basement locker room to the 1910 rink. Fire destroyed this rink in 1945. In 1949, the club erected a new, four sheet facility at 107 W. Albert.