630-406-5274 | 155 Houston Street, Batavia, Illinois 60510
Batavia Industries
ICE HARVESTING
LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF BATAVIA INDUSTRIES
ICE HARVESTING IN BATAVIA

Ice harvesting was a necessary industry in the years before refrigeration. Nearly every hamlet had its water source which, when frozen in the winter, provided ice for summer use. Ice was harvested in two sizes, one for the large ice boxes of meat markets, dairies, and saloons and smaller ones for home use.

In Batavia, there were ice companies with storage houses on both sides of the water, mostly along the pond where there was little current.

The first step in harvesting ice was to clear the snow. Then a man with a horse-drawn marker marked the field both ways about twenty-four inches apart. The marker was followed by a horse drawn plow with a flat blade with coarse teeth on the bottom. Following the marks made by the marker, the plow cut grooves in the ice to nearly its full depth. If the field was small, a man with a hand saw cut the ice.

Thickness of a block of ice might run anywhere from 8 to 28 inches, depending on the temperature. Ice from 10 to 12 inches thick was considered just right. Rarely was ice harvested less than eight inches thick.

After the ice cakes were nearly separated by the plow or saw, men with long-handled chisels pried the cakes loose. Other men guided the chunks to the elevator where they were raised to the proper level so that they could slide down to their proper place in the increasing stockpile stored in the icehouse.

The blocks were stored one against the other with shavings packed between the ice pile and the inside wall of the icehouse. The harvest continued until the house was filled or the weather turned too warm.

Ice harvesting in Batavia ended in the late 1920s to early ’30s with the advent of refrigeration.

Scroll to top