What did you do with your Thanksgiving Day turkey leftovers today? Odds are you wrapped the juicy loot in a bag and tossed it into the refrigerator.
But, prior to the 1930’s, the holiday turkey was kept in an ice box also known as the cold closet. A large block of ice was held in a tray at the top of the compartment to keep food fresh. That ice was harvested in bulk amounts from the Hudson River in the wintertime.
Today, I discovered Stockport Flats, a Columbia County Hudson River Reserve located on Route 9J between the eastern coastal towns of Stockport and Stuyvesant. In an area dominated by tidal wetlands and the busy Amtrak railroad bed sits a surprisingly sound and sturdy structure listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. The industrial remains of the R & W Scott Ice Company is one of the few left of the 135 ice houses that once flourished on the shores between NYC and Albany.
Brave men used to guide a team of horses dragging a sharp plow over the frozen river. They would cut several inches into the ice that formed squares that could be hoisted onto steam-powered conveyor belts. The great tonnage was stored in sawdust for distribution throughout the state.
This rich story of the “Harvesters of Winter Cold” is told on signs that surround the area. It’s a wonderful place to learn about a dangerous industry that once ruled the Hudson River corridor.