200 Years of History
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
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:
- Nolan’s Point the largest. Built c. 1882, it burned
in the fall of 1894 and again October 1921.
- Hurdtown icehouse was located approximately where the
Lake Forest Yacht Club is today. It burned in1921.
- 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.
- The Stack House at Duck Pond, (now known as Lake Shawnee).
Fire destroys building in 1921.
- 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 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:
- When the ice froze to a depth of at least 17 inches the
snow would be plowed away.
- The ice would be scored.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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