COBWEB CORNERS: A problem that turned into money

By Mel McFarland

       Something that gets to be a real problem this time of year used to be a real moneymaker. The problem back then was not how to get rid of it, but how to get it where people wanted it, when they wanted it. That thing was ice.
       In the 1880s, rail shipments of perishable foods over long distances required some type of refrigeration. Ice would not last an entire trip, and it needed to be restocked en route. Ice turned into an industry. Green Mountain Falls, Woodland Park, Divide, Lake George, and other places west of here had lakes that were cultivated for ice. Stored in buildings insulated with straw and sawdust, the ice lasted well into the summer. The Colorado Midland railroad had three big ice storage buildings, about where the mail facility now sits on Robinson Street.
       The lakes in the coldest of winters could get a cut of ice after about two weeks. Deep cross-cut saws powered by teams of men and, later, circular saws driven by old car engines would slice long lines of the ice. These strips were then made into shorter blocks and herded over to the ice house where they were stacked. The ice house at Lake George was by far the biggest building around. It was about the size of the three largest barns in the county put together. It had no windows, only doors. Come spring, the operation changed. Carloads of perishables would stop at stations along the railroad and, if needed, more ice was added. The companies that owned the big ice houses hauled the product to Colorado Springs, Leadville, and even Cripple Creek. Each of these towns had big storage buildings filled with ice. In towns, wagons had routes to deliver ice to customers. This enterprise system gradually faded away when mechanical ways of making ice in the summer came along.
       Ice as a product made a comeback when convenience stores learned they could sell bags of fresh, clean ice in the summer or winter. Today the ice storage buildings are mostly gone, many of them burned down. The building used by Don's Body Shop at 21st and Cucharras was once an ice storage building!