Are you old enough to remember when an “icebox” was used instead of a refrigerator? Ice houses were an important tool in keeping that ice cold to meet refrigeration needs over the summer.

A hundred years ago this week, January 1922, the Newport Mercury reported that ice was being harvested from St. Mary’s “Lake.”

“The severe cold on Monday did not stop the preparations made for harvesting ice at St. Mary’s Lake. Ice about nine inches thick was cut and the ice houses at Oakland Farm have Benn filled. Those at Glen Farm are being filled and the men at Sandy Point Farm were to start on Thursday morning.” (Npt. Mercury 1/7/1922)

In the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society is an ice saw with one handle that was actually used to cut ice at St. Mary’s Pond.

Part of that ice was going into a little ice house at Glen Farm. As part of the Glen Farm complex, an ice house was extremely important to farmers like H.A.C. Taylor who owned a dairy. The Newport Mercury in June of 1896 reports that H.A.C. Taylor was having an ice house built by Edward Coggeshall. It measured 24 feet by 16 feet and had a gambrel roof. The house would have very thick insulation to keep the ice cold through the warmer seasons.

Portsmouth is blessed with many historical buildings and it is always good news when efforts are made to preserve these properties. On December 13, 2021, the Portsmouth Town Council voted to use some modest funds to repair and stabilize the Glen Farm Ice House. These funds go a long way to making the ice house a useful town owned building. Portsmouth’s history in many ways revolves around its agricultural heritage and “gentlemen farms” like Glen Farm are part of that history we should celebrate.

From Newport Mercury 1920