Contact Us | About Us | Volunteer | Local Links           
200 Years of History

200 Years of History

Jump to:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV
Part XV
Part XVI
Part XIX
Part XX
Part III: Ice Harvesting
By R. Richard Willis

Ice harvesting in Jefferson Township was one of the main winter activities in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. On Lake Hopatcong there were five commercial icehouses and many private ones too. Other lakes in Jefferson were used for ice harvesting also.

Originally the ice on Lake Hopatcong, would be shipped on canal boats into the Morris Canal for delivery. But when the Central Railroad arrived in 1886 at Nolan’s Point and connected with Ogden Mine Railroad. The ice could be shipped by rail to markets much faster. The icehouses had problems with fire just like many of our hotels at the Lake. It was a strange sight to see an icehouse after it burned, no building just ice sitting there.

The Consumers Coal & Ice Company (Brady Brothers) was based at Hurdtown and their home office was in Bayonne, NJ. They owned four of the icehouses on the Lake.

The location of the five commercial icehouses were as follows:

  1. Nolan’s Point the largest. Built c. 1882, it burned in the fall of 1894 and again October 1921.
  2. Hurdtown icehouse was located approximately where the Lake Forest Yacht Club is today. It burned in1921.
  3. Callaghan’s icehouse was located near the area where the Hurdtown River empties into Callaghan Cove (Hurd Cove). This one was torn down 1930-31.
  4. The Stack House at Duck Pond, (now known as Lake Shawnee). Fire destroys building in 1921.
  5. The Mountain Icehouse was not in Jefferson Township; it was located in Roxbury Township, behind the Nixon School at Landing. A fire destroyed the first building in 1912. The second building was made of ceramic tile, and torn down in the 40’s.

The ice industry used large amounts of workers. Many were locals, who were paid at a higher rate, but also there were many transients from the cities such as New York and Jersey City. These workers would be brought to Lake Hopatcong to work on the ice, but they would have to work for a period of time before the Brady’s would outfit them. The Brady family learned the hard way if they provided warm clothing and boots etc. to these workers, that they would often quit and return home. The workers were housed at The Hurd Mansion (location of Gatywns II); Callaghan’s Hotel (Floraine Inc.), and other places. The Ice Company had a company store, where food, clothing and supplies could be bought. The cost of the housing and items bought would be deducted from the workers wages. The work was long and hard, but wages were good they could earn between 15 to 20 cents an hour. A workday was dawn to dusk or longer.

The process of harvesting ice is as follows:

  1. When the ice froze to a depth of at least 17 inches the snow would be plowed away.
  2. The ice would be scored.
  3. Then the ice would be cut. There were many techniques, of cutting the ice, by hand, steam powered, and gasoline saws, along with “spud bars”.
  4. If the ice was not near an icehouse. Large ice flows would be cut and one of the steamboats usually the Mystic Shrine, would tow the ice flow to the nearest icehouse, where the ice was processed. If the ice was thicker than 17 inches it was paned to a uniform thickness.
  5. The icehouses also had quality control even in those days. Since the ice was used for human consumption as well as for refrigeration. After the ice was cut into blocks it was fed onto the outside conveyors, up to a point where the “Quality Control Person” stood. He had final say on the quality of the ice. If it had white bubbles, seaweed, fish, or part of a fish in it the ice was let go to the end of the conveyor. To a pile where locals could have the ice for free. Some of the more ambitious men would take this ice. Cut out the problem and sell it to the summer cottages and camps.
  6. If the ice was clear the “Swinger Man” would send the ice into the building to be stacked. Seaweed and sawdust was used for insulation between and around the ice. The ice would be stored for future delivery to the cities, even to other countries.

The constructions of the buildings were; the walls were doubled planked and insulated with seaweed and sawdust between them. The interior walls were also double planked and insulated. The icehouse at Nolan’s Point had twenty rooms, ten on each side with a conveyor in the middle. This conveyor could be raised or lowered according to how much ice was being stored. Both outside and inside conveyors and other moving machinery were powered by steam.

One-year the large Lake and the upper section beyond Brady’s Bridge did not freeze enough. Brady’s Bridge had a removal dam under it, which could trap water in the sheltered and shallower upper end of the lake. Ice was harvested on Duck Pond (Lake Shawnee) that year. But there was no icehouse there. So Mr. Brady consulted with the engineers, to see how high ice could be stacked; before the bottom cakes of ice were crushed. When that figure was arrived, the ice was cut, stacked and then the icehouse was built around that pile of ice. Hence the name of “Stack House”.

The Brady’s planned to build two artificial ponds between Edison Road and Firemen’s Field, for future ice harvesting, but these never got built. Since in the 20’s refrigeration became popular.