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Frozen Diamonds

As temperatures dip below freezing, the cold has got me thinking about the movie Frozen, which I recently saw for the first time (I know, I am a little behind). You might wonder how Disney’s Frozen can relate to Belmont Mansion. Well, in the opening scene of the movie one of the main characters is harvesting ice. (Image from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Photograph Archives Online Catalogue).

Painting by Dahlov Ipcar. 1938 from the Smithsonian Photographs Archive

In a world where our freezer dispenses ice as needed, it is hard to imagine how involved this process was so that Adelicia could get ice in her icebox or fill her ice water pitcher with ice water to offer to visitors who came during the summer (see images of collections items below).

Adelicia had ponds on the property which ice could be harvested from. The ice would then be stored in an icehouse (a building which was mostly underground) and packed in sawdust until it was needed during the summer. Air circulation in an ice house was extremely important to ensure that the ice did not melt, so the ice had to be monitored regularly.

Besides harvesting from personal ponds, cities could also get ice off rivers or lakes. According to the Knoxville Daily Chronicle in December 1878, “The ice harvest continues, and interrupts the skaters. All the wagons not employed hauling coal are still gathering in the frozen diamonds.”

If temperatures did not get could enough during the winter for Belmont Mansion to produce its own ice, Adelicia also had another option. She could purchase it from companies who harvested the ice and shipped it south, as the article below, published in the Nashville Union and American April 16, 1854 explains:

For more information about harvesting ice, including some interesting recipes (which were made using a power ice crusher like the one in the image below), check out Theron L. Hiles “The Ice Crop,” published by O. Judd Company in 1892.


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