Serendipity and Ice Harvesting

Men cutting ice at West Lake Park, date unknown.  Photo 970553 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Men cutting ice at West Lake Park, date unknown. Photo 970553 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I was not planning to post today, but I found something that tickled me so much I felt compelled to share it. I was browsing through some photocopied articles from the so-called “Robert Walden Notebook” held in the Herrick Memorial Library’s local history collection. Walden (1868-1964) was a highly respected lawyer, author, and for two years editor of The Wellington Enterprise. In the 1950s, Walden began writing a regular column for the newspaper that was titled, “Wellington Vignettes,” “That and This,” and finally “Once Upon a Time.” In the column, he offered detailed descriptions of the places and people he had known growing up in the town. The dates are not always totally accurate, but they are amazingly close given that they were recalled by an 80-year-old man reflecting back on the century past.

While paging through articles looking for something else, I came across one I had not read closely called, “Cheese, Ice Ponds and Tragedy in Two Parts.” Since the individual columns are not dated in the notebook, it is difficult to determine when this was published, but it is number A63 in the series. From it, I learned that the pond Charles W. Horr added to his property, which I mentioned in passing in the post on his life, was not ornamental nor even for fire suppression, as I had theorized. Its purpose was to provide ice for his cold storage facilities. I’ll quote Walden at length:

“Development of the cheese industry here necessitated storage and ice refrigeration, since electric power was not to be made available for about a quarter of a century. Some large buildings were erected for storing ice. One of the largest of these was a frame building located in the hollow between Herrick Ave., west and Westlake pond. It was known then as Ice House Pond and by others as the Horr, Warner Pond. After ice was no longer required for the refrigeration of cheese by its owners, because cheese was no longer manufactured in the Wellington district, ice still was harvested from the pond and stored in the ice house by Charles West and Lewis Dibble then by Dibble after West had retired from the business.”

Detail of Wellington Village map from "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map from “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

The above detail of an 1896 Wellington map shows the ice house that Walden mentions, south of West Herrick Avenue–then called West Main or Liberty Street–and north of two large ice-harvesting ponds, both labelled “E. A. Horr” because Charles W. Horr died two years prior to the publication of this atlas. (Esther A. Horr was his widow.) The undated photograph I featured at the top of the post shows men cutting blocks of ice with handsaws at “West Lake Park.” I believe this is the northernmost of the two ponds shown on the map.

A few paragraphs later, Walden writes, “The largest ice refrigeration and storage building for cheese is the square brick building between Depot st. and the Big Four depot, built by Horr, Warner & Co.” I included a photograph of this building in the Horr biographical post; it still stood at the time of Walden’s publication but burned to the ground in 2007. He concludes, “Ice was harvested from a number of large ponds in or near the village. It furnished seasonal employment each ice-producing year for many horses, sleds and men. Three large ponds were constructed by Horr, Warner & Co. for the ice they would produce. One of them was on the farm of Charles W. Horr, father of the present Charles W. Horr, Sr.” (Charles W. Horr, son of the cheese entrepreneur, died in 1954.) A detail from the same map shows the thirty-six acre Horr property, with the ice pond visible directly north of Greenwood Cemetery. Comparing the 1896 map to today, I believe that Montrose Way skirts just north of the area once occupied by the pond.

Detail of Wellington Village map from "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map from “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

This is a testament to how savvy a businessman Charles W. Horr was. He planned a pond that would add beauty and value to his property, provide a measure of security against the threat of fire, and could be endlessly harvested for a naturally-renewable resource of which he required enormous (and otherwise costly) quantities. But he didn’t stop there: why waste perfectly good dirt if you can reap a profit from it? I found a notice in the May 6, 1880 The Wellington Enterprise which read, “C. W. Horr is making a large reservoir on his farm east of his house to cover 1 1/2 acres of land and to be five ft. deep. M. V. Webster has contracted to take out 150 loads of earth each day until some time in September, and is delivering it in the village to purchasers for purposes of grading” (pg. 3). The man was a genius.

I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have stumbled upon this answer to a question I did not know I had. This is exactly the kind of serendipitous discovery that makes me love studying history. There are nearly 250 columns penned by Walden and it makes me wonder what other “mysteries” are actually hiding in plain sight?

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