Saving ice

by Nancy
(Swanton MD USA)

How did the old-timers save winter ice for summer use?


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Ice Houses
by: Sue Merriam

Before refrigeration, people used to cut ice from lakes and ponds and save them in ice houses. The houses were made of brick or wood, and sometimes they were partially underground to "borrow" cold from the ground, similar to the way a root cellar would work.

If the ice houses were made of wood, sawdust was packed between the walls for insulation, and the door to the ice house would be located on the north side of the house. Similar to a root cellar, an ice house worked best when the door was located on the coolest part of the building.

For convenience, ice houses were typically located close to a pond or lake. During the winter, people would cut the ice in large blocks and then haul them to the ice house. The blocks were packed in sawdust and then covered with hay. The blocks would be so well insulated that most of the ice would remain frozen until the following winter.

The ice was used for cold drinks, ice cream and to keep food cold. Before there were refrigerators, people had ice boxes. A block of ice would be stored in a chamber at the top of the box. Because cold air sinks, the cool air would keep everything cool in the box.

A great example of how people used to harvest and store ice can be found in the children's book, "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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