COBWEB CORNERS: It WAS an icebox back then
By Mel McFarland
I still hear people call their refrigerators iceboxes, but 100 years ago an icebox was an insulated wooden cabinet with a space for a block of ice. The blocks were often cut from thick ice, cultivated on local and distant lakes. Ice here often came from 50 miles away! In Denver and Pueblo it was sometimes farther.
The ice was only used to make the inside of the cabinet cold. No, there was no electricity to it. There was a pan in the bottom, or a hose to outside, where the melted water was collected. Only the most well to do had the drain hose. Food in the ice boxes did not get really cold, and it was only for short time storage. Women often went to the store for the fresh meat, eggs or such for a day's meals.
If you had an icebox, the ice had to be monitored. If you were lucky, a 10-pound block might get you through a week. There were several ice companies in this area with wagons that had regular delivery routes. A simple sign in a window would let the driver know to stop. The wagons had blocks of 100 pounds, which the driver would cut with a simple pick, into whatever sized you needed, or could use. A 10-pound chunk might cost you fifty cents.
Bars and restaurants had cold storage rooms, but people did not put ice into drinks until mechanical refrigerators came along. Ice from lakes might have all sorts of foul things frozen inside. Horses were even used to pull the ice saws across the lakes. Even when power saws were used, an ice block might include sawdust, leaves, twigs, or even metal. Sawdust was used in the ice storage buildings as insulation.
Up into the 1940s, some of our ice came from Monument, Palmer Lake and Lake George. Most of it was brought to town in railroad box cars. A railroad car could handle up to 30 tons of ice. The more ice in a car, the longer it lasted and the farther it could be taken.
I recently read about an ice lake I had not heard of before. In the 1890s, a Mr. William Frizzell had a lake in Ute Pass. In 1893 he had 2,000 tons of ice ready when spring arrived. He sold ice to most of the hotels in Manitou. These hotels had special cold rooms in their basements to store ice all summer. The article said he used Lake Argyle for his source. Now, I am not familiar with such a lake in Ute Pass; however, there was a man-made lake a short distance west of Rainbow Falls. Perhaps this was Lake Argyle.