When some local farmers saw the thermometer dipping colder and colder below freezing for a few days they knew that it would be time to get the ice harvesting equipment ready for use on the ponds and a few temporarily dammed creeks in Greece. Long Pond and Cranberry Pond were ideal places for such a labor-intensive operation. When the ice was four inches thick it would support a horse. Five inches or more would be safe for a team of horses with a two-ton loaded sleigh.
Ice cutting might start at the end of December and continue until late February. If it was a very cold winter two harvests might be possible. Rain would shut down any further harvesting as it became too slushy for man or beast. In some years there was no harvesting as the ice never became thick enough.
The general weight of each cake might be 300 to 400 pounds. The cakes were stored in insulated frame storage buildings, close to a body of water. They could be as small as today’s garden shed or as big as a horse barn. Most in our area were of a fairly modest dimension. During the warmer months local folk usually visited the large ice houses where they could purchase ice cut in 25, 50, and 100-pound blocks. These were the convenient sizes to put in their own ice boxes. The many summer hotels along the lake frequently obtained ice locally or they might have their own ice house.
A copy of an ice harvesting guide
Artificial ice-making machines began to appear in the late 19th century, but at first, this industry was mainly supplied by railroad refrigerator cars. By about 1910 the first electric home refrigeration machines came on the market. They were expensive, plus the cooling machinery was large and often relegated to the basement. The cost and size of the refrigerator dropped by the mid-1920s with the introduction of the G-E monitor top model, available in several sizes and prices. This spelled the quick demise of ice har vesting in Greece and elsewhere. The electrification of Greece was completed by the late 1930s and time payment plans were available to purchase a new “electric ice box”, as they were often called.
Visit our museum and see additional information on ice harvesting and view two walls of Walt Goulding’s paintings of ice harvesting in the early days. Also on display are several ice harvesting saws and ice pole hooks, part of our collection from the Skinner family of Manitou Road. There is a golden oak ice box and in our 1930s exhibit, explore the “Mrs. Happy Housewife’s” G-E monitor top ELECTRIC Refrigerator.
Below is Kathie Firkins our Education Coordinator explains what winters on Long Pond are like from the early 1800s till at least 1910 when refrigeration started to appear in homes.
Photos, data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office.