Now and Then

Now and Then: Natural Ice Harvested and Stored – Fremont County 1890s to 1950s

By Loretta (Stevens) Bailey

Grape Creek Ice House, ca. 1890. Published in the Cañon City Daily Record, May 24, 1980.

Now:  Before the days of refrigeration or artificial ice, nature provided a way to keep foods and other perishables frozen and stored.  Natural ice would be cut, hauled, and stored by workers during winter months then stored throughout the year.

Ice Houses were also known as ice wells, ice pits, or ice mounds. They were often built near the natural sources of ice like rivers, creeks, and fresh water lakes which were abundant with Fremont County’s water sheds. During the winter, ice and snow were taken into the ice house and insulated with straw or sawdust.

Some of the ice houses in Canon City and Florence are still standing while others have been razed.  I was able to find locations of ice houses and most places are easily accessible.

The toil and dangerous manual labor that went into ice harvesting, hauling, and storage of ice was a chancy gamble for man and beast. Today, ice is a comfort and convenience like the push of a button.

Today we have refrigerated trucks, but in earlier years, when people needed to ship food, ice was needed to preserve the food in transit. Ice would be packed around and over food to keep it from spoiling. With apples and other fruits and vegetables as crops, ice was important to Fremont County when it came to transport. 

Thomas & Kirkton used ice when transporting perishables, ca. 1955. Object ID: 1991.024.001; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Two unidentified boys packing ice in baskets to keep food cold, ca. 1950. Object ID: 1994.035.5330; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Now: The following are photographs and Canon City Daily Record articles. These articles can be accessed at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center in the Ice Industry file.

Canon City Daily Record
Saturday, May 24, 1980
“A Look Back in History”
By W.T. Little
Grape Creek Ice House 1890’s

…This ice house was up Grape Creek, one of two that once stood beside that stream just to the southwest of town. One was owned by the prison and the other was a commercial ice company.

Ice was cut from Grape Creek during the winter months and stored in the ice houses for summer use…The old building stood for some years even after it was abandoned when Canon City’s first ice plant for manufacturing ice went into operation shortly after the turn of the century.

It was the Canon Crystal Ice Company, and it stood at the same location as the present Ready’s Ice Co. near Second and Water Streets.  In 1905, Henry Hutton was manager of the Canon Crystal Ice Co. and his offices were at 632 Main Street.

Several different owners and managers followed Hutton, including E.M. Collins in 1908, E.G. Brinkworth in 1916 and Sylvanus Hynes, who bought the plant in 1921.  He had made money in the operation of a mine at Rosita, and he promptly changed the name of his plant to the Hynes Ice and Cold Storage Co.

In 1926, Hynes bought the old zinc mill 15th and Water Streets and made it into his Hynes Storage Plant.

He was killed in 1954 when his car and a train collided not far from the storage plant.

The present Ready family has expanded their Ready’s Ice Co. and now serves a large south-central Colorado area.  Their packaged ice for home or commercial use can be purchased in scores of outlets…

Hynes’ Ice and Cold Storage at 2nd and Water Street, 1931. Object ID: 2013.011.755; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Hynes’ Cold Storage Plant, 15th and Water Street, ca. 1930. Object ID: M11.142; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Hynes’ Ice Company delivery truck, ca. 1945. Object ID: 2016.017.002; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Canon City Daily Record
August 30, 1900
Canon City Will Soon Enjoy the Luxury of Pure Ice

The old ice houses so long in use on Sell’s Island are no more.  They have been torn down and the grounds cleared preparatory to erecting new and substantial buildings within which will be installed new and modern machinery for the manufacture of ice.

This project is made possible by the introduction of capital from Colorado Springs.  The gentlemen who are behind the new industry were at Cañon a few days ago and are satisfied that Cañon City presents an excellent field for such an enterprise.

The main building will be 100×40 feet; the machine room will be 40×40 feet; and when completed the plant will be simply perfect.  Its capacity will be ten tons daily.  The new foundations will be completed within the next week.  Ernest Sell is superintending the work.

The RECORD is glad to welcome this new and much needed industry and wishes for its unlimited success.

Canon City Record
August 21, 1902

The Crystal Ice Co. of this city is doing a good business in other towns and cities.  Last week they shipped thirty car loads of ice out of Canon City. At Cripple Creek, where they can get the natural ice, they prefer the artificial and send here for it. The capacity of the ice plant is ten tons daily but it is kept running in the winter time as well as in the summer.  The ice which is manufactured in the winter is stored away for use in the summer months.  The ice plant is a great thing for Canon City and should be appreciated by its residents.

Crystal Ice Company, ca. 1900. Object ID: 1992.070.007; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Canon City Daily Record
Friday, December 30, 1927

The Poteet Ice Company is making plans to harvest a large crop of ice on its lake in Hillside and Ben Poteet, with the force of half a dozen men left for Hillside Tuesday morning to begin the work of cutting the largest crop of ice in that district in a number of years.

The ice is reported to be in the first-class condition and is from 14 to 15 inches thick and is freezing at the rate of an inch a day.

It is expected that two weeks will be required to cut and store 2,400 tons, which is the capacity of the company’s storage facilities

In the two houses at Florence 400 tons will be stored and the remainder will be stored at Hillside.

The work will require a force of 25 men, many of whom will be recruited from the Hillside district.

On account of the continued cold weather of the past few weeks the harvest this year started a week earlier than usual and it is the first time in several years that the company has started these operations in December.

The first car was loaded out for Florence on the Rio Grande Wednesday at Hillside.
L.A. Poteet states that from present reports the mountain ice crop in all points of the state will be prolific and there will be no danger of a shortage as was the case last year when the Denver & Rio Grande was obliged to purchase ice for use on many of its divisions.

This blog will be continued. Part two will be a self-guided historical tour of the ice houses and locations around Fremont County. 

Tools of the Trade

Ice crusher, Patent no. 94147, Patented Dec. 25, 1934. Object ID: 2018.008.029; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Collection

Hynes’ Ice and Cold Storage Company ice pick, year unknown. Object ID: 2008.052.213; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Collection
Ice shaver, year unknown. Object ID: 2016.009.824; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Collection
Ice cube tongs, year unknown. Object ID: 2014.076.058; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Collection


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