Around the Island

Exploring ice harvesting on the Island — Community’s help requested

The Shelter Island Historical Society is working on a project that will feature its collection of ice harvesting tools and equipment. They’d like your help.

Did you or your family members once harvest ice on Shelter Island? The Society is looking for community involvement to bring this project to life.

In addition to historical archives, the Island is blessed with a living resource of families who can trace their ancestors’ work back to the time when harvesting ice was common.

Ice harvesting involved scraping snow from shallow freshwater ponds, which were more plentiful on the Island a century ago. It took a communal effort to cut slabs of ice weighing 100 pounds or more, scoring, sawing and loading them onto horse-drawn wagons.

The industry has disappeared along with the historic hotels, which would save the blocks in sawdust and seaweed in their icehouses for the summer season.

In a time before freezers, this was the only way to assure a supply of ice to keep foods cold and chill the summer visitors’ beverages.

Email [email protected] or call the office at 631-749-0025 if you have recollections, photographs or tools.