As Colorado was coming into shape as a state, so too were blocks of ice cut from lakes, ponds and streams. Residents, after all, needed a way to preserve their perishables.
Indeed, the commodity wasn’t so easy to come by back then. Here’s a brief history of the industry that grew with the state’s biggest populations:
1860: Alden’s Hotel and Restaurant on Denver’s Blake Street advertises ice cream “kept constantly on hand.” Which begs the question: How is J.R. Alden preserving the cold snack year-round?
Perhaps from “a gentleman who has been for many years engaged in the Boston ice trade,” as the Rocky Mountain News reports this year. He is said to be “making preparations to store large quantity of that summer luxury in this city.”
Also this year, the paper writes of a Mr. Kershaw, “long of the Knickerbocker Ice Company of New York.” He reportedly employs men and horses to cut 8- to 12-inch blocks on a South Platte River-fed lake.
The facility soon burns down and is swiftly rebuilt to meet the growing demand, as evidenced by Kershaw advertising a reward for someone “in the habit of breaking into our ice house.”
Late 1800s: In Fremont County, the ice industry booms to become a premier source shipping beyond state lines. Insulated ice houses are built along Sell’s Lake and Grape Creek to serve Cañon City.
Early 1900s: Thomas Hanks and W.E. Doyle lease the shores of Monument Lake, then called State Reservoir. Hanks and Doyle Ice Co. builds a plant with timber from Black Forest and harvests ice to be shipped to Denver and Pueblo.
“In ice harvest days, the winters were COLD!” reads an account by the Palmer Lake Historical Society. “From the first of November, Monument could always plan on the weather to range from 10- to 20-below zero every night.”
For several weeks in winter, upward of 50 men are hired and join horses to cut and pack ice on sawdust. They make 40 cents per hour, according to the historical society. Thousands of tons are stored and sold to homes and businesses.
1905: A hot summer sees demand for ice rise to $1 per 100 pounds in Denver, while Cañon Crystal Ice Co. keeps it at 50 cents.
1921: Cañon Crystal Ice Co. is bought by Sylvanus Hynes, who replaces the horse-drawn ice wagons with a fleet of delivery cars, including three Model T Fords. Hynes goes on to establish ice-packed storage facilities for local farmers to keep their produce. Hynes also develops “Hynes Special” refrigerators.
1949: Hynes sells to George Kochs, who a year later sells to Earl Ready. Ready Ice Co. reportedly becomes a leading supplier, trusted by parts of Kansas and New Mexico as well as the Colorado State Fair, Fort Carson and Air Force Academy. The Broadmoor carves sculptures using the ice.
1981: Ready Ice Co. is reportedly producing 100 tons of ice per day. It would close before the end of the decade, marking the end of the ice business in Cañon City.
Sources: Cañon City Daily, Denver Public Library, Palmer Lake Historical Society