by Patricia Grandjean
Jan 28, 2011
01:33 PM
Box Office

Break the Ice


Whether you remember the days when an iceman delivered ice to your home, or  just heard about them, you can learn more about the history of ice harvesting at the White Memorial Conservation Center’s presentation of “Cut It Out: The Local History and Practice of Ice Harvesting” on Jan. 29.

In the days before refrigeration, this would be prime time for harvesting ice. The frigid temperatures we have been enduring this winter would have provided opportune conditions to collect ice, which was a booming industry in Connecticut during the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the largest commercial icehouses in the state was located on the north shore of Bantam Lake. The facility was destroyed by fire in 1929 but remnants of the manufacturing plant remain near the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield.

The program begins indoors at the “Ice House” display in the center’s museum, and then proceeds outdoors down the Lake Trail to the old icehouse ruins on Ongley Pond. WMCC education director Jeff Greenwood and WMCC research director James Fischer demonstrate how ice was cut and moved using the same tools and methods that were used more than a century ago.

Dress for the weather. Participants will be walking and standing on Ongley Pond for an extended period of time. Wear warm boots and prepare for wind and sun. Hot beverages and treats will be provided. The program runs from 11 to 2. Admission is free (donations will be accepted to help defray the center’s programming expenses). Meet in the White Memorial Conservation Center musem, 80 Whitehall Rd., Litchfield. For more information, call 860/567-0857 or visit

To see how ice harvesting was done in the old days, take a look at these two entertaining short videos provided by the WMCC:
ice cutting circa 1921
ice cutting on Ongley Pond in 2011

Break the Ice

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Box Office is your guide to entertainment across Connecticut, courtesy of senior editor Pat Grandjean. If it's a chat with an actor or actress, previewing a new play at a regional theater, the latest on a state celebrity's new movie, or recommendations for seeing and doing, let Box Office be one of your hubs.

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