Experience the natural ice industry at the Annual Tobyhanna Millpond #1 Ice Harvest. Ice is harvested much like it was done 100 years ago. An ice saw is used to cut about 2/3 of the way through the ice, and the public is then invited to cut the individual ice cakes loose with hand saws. The ice cakes are moved through a channel by volunteers to the base of a ramp along the shoreline and pulled up the incline by horses and into a 50-ton capacity icehouse built in 1994.
The natural ice industry had been an important local industry around the turn of the last century. Tobyhanna Millpond #1 is one of the many lakes in the Poconos that were used for the ice industry. Before the days of electric refrigerators, iceboxes were common in households and they were cooled with a block of natural ice. Tobyhanna Millpond #1 was originally dammed for the logging industry in the 1850s and after the area was timbered off, the Pocono Mountain Ice Company built a 60,000-ton capacity icehouse near the lake in 1907. That icehouse was 500 feet long and 100 feet wide, made of hemlock lumber, and had sawdust in the walls for insulation. Ice was transported by railcars throughout the summer to New York City and Philadelphia, and the local iceman delivered a block of ice for household iceboxes. The original Tobyhanna Millpond #1 icehouse burned down in 1939.
There is also a restored Boston & Maine Boxcar, built by Western Steel and Foundry in 1908 near the icehouse. The wooden boxcar is painted to replicate an ice car that would have been used to ship the natural ice to New York and Philadelphia. Today, the boxcar is used to store the authentic equipment and memorabilia used by ice harvesters.
The ice harvest is organized by the family of the late Thelma and Bill Leonard Sr. from Tobyhanna and the Coolbaugh Township Historical Association. The event is held on the last Saturday in January each year and gets underway around 9:00 am and lasts until the icehouse is full, usually around 2 or 3 pm. The public is invited to come help cut ice, move the ice cakes to the icehouse, or see a demonstration of ice harvesting with the actual tools and equipment used at the turn of the century. Learn firsthand about the history of ice harvesting in the Poconos.