Before there were refrigerators, ice was harvested from lakes, such as Conneaut Lake.
Men drove teams of horses out onto the frozen lake, plowed the snow, cut the ice into large square pieces and floated them via channels to the ice houses.
Then, they were guided up inclines where steam powered chain pulleys deposited the chunks of ice into the massive ice houses.
There, with sawdust insulation, the blocks were kept frozen until they were loaded onto wagons to be delivered locally and onto trains where they were transported hundreds of miles away, through the whole year.
It was a synergistic endeavor. The railroads had a steady business and the ice company had a reliable means of delivery. This was a thriving industry, employing hundreds of men from the late 1880s until the late 1920s, when refrigeration became widely available.
The history of ice harvesting is detailed in an exciting exhibit inside our museum.
Our ice house model, built to scale and with exacting detail by Gary Worthington shows how the ice was transported up the inclines and guided into the exact desired location in the ice house.
Surrounding the model are photographs of the many aspects of harvesting ice. Various tools hang on the walls adjacent to the ice houses.
A painting of the ice houses, by Terri Raugh, lines another wall.
The Ice Industry exhibit is an education into one of the lake’s early business.
In addition to the items in the exhibit, we have much more information related to the Ice Industry in our archives.