Ice Harvesting and Ice Box History in Waukesha County Wisconsin

By
Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker

When I was younger and would hang out with my grandmother driving her nuts she would often suggest I go mow the yard, pull weeds, or do some physical work so I could appreciate a good days work. Often, I would look in her refrigerator for food and comment that her ice box should be colder. Of which she would Wisconsin ice box waukesha county real estate reply "You don't know how good you have it Tombo, I remember always Ice harvesting waukesha county homes for salescraping and cleaning the ice chest." I would then make some crack about not keeping tabs on the pioneers and from there I was out doing physical hard work. Little did I know the amazing history that was all around me on the Waukesha County lakes and the rest of the Lake Country Real Estate Market.

Before refrigerators most people could have used an ice chest which consisted of a holding compartment, a storage area under the holding compartment that held the ice and it's associated evaporating pans. The ice would be harvested on local Waukesha County lakes in Waukesha County, packed in saw dust, and kept until it was delivered by the ice man. Yes, there really was such a man as the ice man from the ice company. Waukesha Ice harvesting waukesha county homes for saleCounty lakes provided communities around the state with a natural seasonal business that evolved into a large scale industry, ice waukesha county homes for sale, homes for sale in waukesha county harvesting. Small, local ice harvesting businesses existed in Wisconsin as early as the 1850s, but did not become a major industry until the 1870s and 1880s with the increasing demands of brewing and meat packing.

During the 1880s, Milwaukee's breweries used more 335,000 tons of ice per year.  Meat packing also required large amounts of ice for the storage and shipment of waukesha county homes for sale, homes for sale in waukesha county meats.  Wisconsin was seen as a dependable source of high quality ice, particularly as rapid industrial expansion elsewhere led to increasingly polluted waterways. Pewaukee Lake in Waukesha County was a  waukesha county homes for sale, homes for sale in waukesha countymajor ice harvesting site, and was used by Best Brewery, followed by Armour, Cudahy, and the Wisconsin Lakes Ice and Cartage Company. Lakes throughout southern Wisconsin were utilized for ice as long as they had direct access to rail lines. Refrigeration technology began to replace natural ice harvesting in the 1910s and by the end of WWI, large ice harvesting firms had left Wisconsin.

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Comments (5)

John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA
ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN

One of my family members owns a rural property that has been in the family since the 1860s. This property used to have a "cement house" near the main house. The "cement house" had walls and a ceiling over a foot thick of solid concrete. These walls provided the insulation barrier for the ice that was stored in this structure. This structure was used to store goods that needed cooling to preserve them such as meat. This was before the property was wired for electricity. Over time, the "cement house" developed cracks and became unsafe to enter. It was eventually removed since it had long passed it useful life and usefulness.

Dec 05, 2022 04:26 PM
Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459

John Juarez

That is such a great thing. I am fascinated looking at old history techniques 

Dec 13, 2022 12:20 PM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Tom - that is such an interesting part of our country's economic history.  Wisconsin always had the nice clear water.

Dec 06, 2022 03:44 AM
Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459

Grant Schneider

Amazing how things worked so well and it looks primitive as can be; but it worked 

Dec 13, 2022 12:20 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

How interesting! Love the photos too. Thanks for sharing.

Dec 06, 2022 04:55 AM
Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459

Kat Palmiotti

Pretty innovative even back then 

Dec 13, 2022 12:19 PM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I can recall seeing people doing ice harvesting in the late 60's for the amount of chill needed for a dairy farm. It was fascinating and still needed horses as the trucks would have been too heavy for the lake

Dec 06, 2022 06:01 AM
Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459
Coldwell Banker - Oconomowoc, WI
Waukesha County Realtor Real Estate agent. SOLD!

Ed Silva

I can remember that just as well

Dec 13, 2022 12:18 PM