Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Iceman Cometh

In the Chariton Herald newspaper dated November 26, 1896 there was a small article regarding the construction of the icehouse.    A mammoth icehouse, 30 x 70 feet, 16 feet high, is being constructed by the Chariton Ice Co. at the fair grounds.  The old house at the electric light station has been removed.  By the new arrangement, capacity for 400 loads more than before has been secured.

September 28, 1976 the Chariton Leader provided this story:
A daily ritual, when the Chariton Ice Company was one of the community's primary industries and employers, was the placing of the "Ice Card" in the window.  The printed card had large numbers on each side, 25, 50, 75, and 100.  The number up was the block weight the homeowner needed that day.

Horse drawn wagons, until the later days of the delivering of ice, carried large grooved blocks.  The grooves indicated approximate size and permitted the driver to chisel off a 25lb. block with ease. 

In the hot summer months, neighborhood children followed the ice wagon daily to secure cool chips for eating.

Icemen had to have strong backs to carry heavy blocks into homes or upstairs apartments.  Many homes arranged an outside door opening into the "Ice Box" to facilitate delivery and to avoid a daily cleanup of water that melted from the ice.

The Chariton firm operated until the early 1940's, approximately 35 years, when every home had acquired a modern refrigerator.

Strangely, today firms across the United States successfully market manufactured ice through supermarkets and other outlets for those needing more ice than can be made at home.

Around September of 1976 the icemen cometh no more in Chariton and the last vestige of their presence, the old icehouse, is being razed.

The Bob Stone Companies, which have owned the former icehouse on Brookdale Avenue for several years, are now removing the half that constituted the storage area.  The manufacturing and locker portion of the plant, constructed of concrete block, will not be razed now, but may be later. 

The contractor who undertook the job of removing the storage area said, "It was really insulated, with sawdust and cork,"

September 6, 2001, the Chariton Herald-Patriot headlined the following news:
Fire Destroys Old Icehouse
by Bill Howes
The building known as the Old Icehouse, located in the 1200 block of Brookdale Avenue, was destroyed by fire late Monday afternoon.  The one-story concrete building was originally built in the early 1900's to store ice in before refrigerators were invented.  It is not known at this time what caused the fire and the cause is still being investigated by the Iowa State Fire Marshall's Office and the Chariton Police Department.

The building has been empty and unused for years.  The last person to own it was rural Chariton resident Paul Umbenhower who owned it during part of the 1970's and most of the 1980's.  Umbenhower used the building mainly for storing seeds.  Umbenhower owns Chariton Feed and Grain Inc. in Chariton.

Chariton Volunteer Fire Department first assistant fire chief Brian Davis said that several people living near the icehouse reported the fire.  Davis said that people living near the building saw children playing in the area around it before the fire.  "It's our understanding that the building was used by some children in town as a hangout," Davis said.

The fire department was dispatched at around 4:13pm.  Upon their arrival the entire roof and building were engulfed in flames.  Davis said that the main reason the building burnt so quickly was that it was insulated with sawdust.  "That's what they used for insulation in the old days.  Sawdust burns very fast," Davis said.  The ice that was stored there in the early 1900's was packed in sawdust.

Davis said that the fire department's first firefighting effort was hampered because the first hydrant they attached to on Brookdale wasn't working.  Then they attached to a hydrant near North Park and also shuttled water in through their tankers.  In addition to putting out the fire, Davis said they removed some trailers from the property and put out some grass and debris fires near the Coop owned fuel tanks southeast of the building.
The fire department spent about two hours putting out the fire.  If anyone has more information about the fire, they should contact the Chariton Police Department or the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department,

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