Near the beginning of A Willful Romantic (GQ Book 3), Henry and Martin go ice skating on the Lake in Central Park with their friends. This clip from 1902 is a good example of what I was picturing when I wrote the scene.
There was a signal to let people know the ice was ready for skating in Central Park: a red ball raised from the bell tower. Was it on a stick? Did it levitate? I haven’t a clue. For skating in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, they would fly a white flag with a red ball/circle from the streetcars to alert the public, so this red ball thing is pretty consistent. I have to say, the red ball=ice connection isn’t really an obvious one to me.
I have Henry and his friend Freddie Caldwell (and Martin and Tom, of course) go downtown to buy skates for the slaves, and what I had in mind was Modell’s, a sporting goods store that’s been around since 1889, with a store in Lower Manhattan dating from that time. I don’t know for a fact that they carried ice skates, but there’s no reason to think they didn’t.
(I was pretty good at rollerskating, but I’ve never gotten the hang of ice skating, and I have no idea what the difference might be.)