Winters were generally colder on the prairie in the 1800s and rivers would freeze solid. The Cottonwood River had an ice cutting factory and large blocks of ice were scored and cut by an ice plow, then sold. Blocks of ice were then carried, by wagon, to the icehouse for storage. For insulation against melting, ice was stored among layers of prairie hay and sawdust. There is an old saying that the rich man gets his ice in the summer, while the poor man gets his ice in the winter. From this one could surmise that Mr. Jones was the rich man in the story, as he had ice all year long. Try to imagine the blocks of ice that would be stored in this structure.
The icehouse was built of native limestone in 1882. The original doorway was located on the north face of the building. Placing the entrance on the north side of a building denies sunlight from reaching the ice. Also, some icehouses placed the entrance several feet off the ground, because the interior cold air (from the ice) flows downward. Keeping the entrance to the building near the top, would not allow this interior cold air to escape. In the 1887 Spring Hill Ranch lithograph, the original dormer and access door can be seen on the north side in the upper portion of the roofline. The roof has changed over the years, but still visible inside is the original framing for the dormer and doorway.
Over the years the icehouse was adaptively used as a garage and workshop, making it necessary to widen the entrance and move it around to the south side for greater usability and access to sunlight.
The following excerpt was taken from The Good Old Days, Ice Harvest, R.J. McGinnis, F. & W. Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, pages 121-122.)
Back to Virtual Tour Main Page
Last updated: January 17, 2018