Before electricity and refrigerators were in every home, perishable foods were kept cool in an “ice box.” That is exactly what it was – an insulated box with a compartment to hold a large block of ice and a compartment for food.

Ice was harvested in the winter after lakes completely froze. Crews cut out large blocks of ice, weighing 300 pounds, which were stacked in an ice house. In the early days, all work was done manually, with really long saws and a lot of strong men and horses. Eventually, there were trucks and power saws to make the work a little easier. Each layer of blocks was insulated with thick sawdust so the ice stayed frozen. Ice dealers would break the large blocks into smaller blocks and deliver them to the customers’ homes to put in their ice box.

Norway Lake had an ice business until 1954. A large ice house that could hold 2,300 tons of ice was next to the lake near the Crockett Ridge Road. This photo shows a crew floating cut blocks toward the conveyor that carried the ice blocks up and in to the ice house. Another team in the building would stack the ice and cover it with sawdust, where it would stay frozen until well into summer.

Can you imagine chipping little bits of ice from the big block in your ice box? You could only have little bits for your lemonade because the block of ice had to keep your food cold until the ice man came again.

Ice harvesting on Norway Lake. Photo courtesy of Sidney Gordon

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