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Photo Archivist's Selection of the Month: January 2005

Ice Harvesting in Stamford – The Diamond Ice Company

undated photo of a delivery cart at Central Park

An undated photo of a delivery cart at Central Park. Note ‘PHONE 100’ on top.

The wintry weather had us look for an appropriate theme, and we found the photos below. However, we soon discovered that ours was not an original idea: Carl Lobozza was first:

Journey Through Time
Stamford Historical Society, 1971
Ice Harvesting On The Mill River, pp. 26/27
(Photos from H.C. Stevens Collection 1913)

Here is the adapted text with the corresponding images:

Before the days of modern household appliances as we know them now, the ice-box—cooled by “natural” ice—preceded the electric refrigerator. The ice was harvested in convenient winter periods and stored in double-walled ice-houses insulated with hay. One such ice-house was situated at Main Street on the Mill River near where the Senior Citizens’ Housing Project now stands. Here, ice was harvested and stored, for summer consumption.

horse-drawn snow plane scraping snow from the ice cutter making a preliminary groove
We see a horse-drawn snow plane scraping snow from the ice, while another photo shows a cutter making a preliminary groove. The ice was then sawed by hand with saws long enough to cut down through the thickness of the ice. The first slabs of ice were taken near the ice-house ramp and, as a channel was formed, slabs were floated to the ramp and hauled up for storage. Sawdust was used to pack around and between the layers of ice slabs and subsequently sold house-to-house in cakes of 25, 50, 75 or 100 pound blocks.
ice was sawed by hand a channel was formed near the ramp
slabs are hauled up for storage

Also shown is a drawing of an ice-box with a compartment at the top for the ice. As the ice melted, the water ran down a tube to a pan on the floor which was always running over. If you lived in a “modern” house, the tube ran into the basement to a sewer drain. The name on this ice-box “ZERO REFRIGERATOR” had to refer to the centigrade scale because the temperature in the box never got below 32° Fahrenheit.

drawing of an early icebox

The Main Ice Company in Town Was the Diamond Ice Co.

The Advocate in its Tercentenary Edition, 1941, writes:

“S. Grosvenor Fessenden and Henry Provost founded the Diamond Ice Co., located at 30 Main St., in 1897, Mr. Fessenden being a foreman at the Yale and Towne and Mr. Provost in the livery business at the time of forming the partnership. Cutting ice from the mill pond of the Rippowam River, they used 18 or 20 teams in their delivery service. One of the first artificial ice plants in the State was installed by Diamond Ice in 1897, and after 1916 artificial ice was made and sold exclusively. The ice-making capacity and storage space was increased in 1927. Present officers are S. G. Fessenden, president; J. B. Brennan, vice-president; A, J. Donahue, secretary; W. L. Shea, treasurer.”

We found the last listing in city directory of 1944, thereafter, the company shows up as FAIRCO ICE (Fairfield County Ice Co.) Both are listed and advertised as located at “Main St. at the Bridge.”

Diamond Ice Co. employees are lined up in front of the company building next to the delivery trucks.

Diamond Ice Company building, employees, and delivery trucks, c. 1920

Diamond Ice Company employees, c. 1920

Diamond Ice Company delivery trucks, c. 1920

Note: According to our automotive consultant, Kit Foster, the photo dates to 1930 the earliest. The first, second and fifth trucks in line are either 1928 or 1929 Model AA Fords and the fourth from left is a 1930 Chevrolet. The trucks with artillery wheels are older.

The only document the Society has is an invoice of 1916 for the “Hygienic Ice.”

Diamond Ice Company, 1916 invoice

Finally, there are two unfortunately very poor photos of ice harvesting in North Stamford. Date and people are unknown.

ice harvesting in North Stamford, unknown date and people ice harvesting in North Stamford, unknown date and people

Postscript October 2005: The Diamond Ice Company in the Flood of '55.

Diamond Ice Company

Photos© Stamford Historical Society

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