Current River Conditions

Natural and Social History

Photo Galleries

List of Native Plants and Animals

Bronx River Stories

Histories

Gators in the Bronx!

The Old Snuff Mill

Jumpin' Jupiter!

The Mile Square

What's an Alewife, Anyway?

Water for Concrete

Paddling Back in the Day

1895 Tragedy in a Bronx River Swimming Hole

William Hart, the Bronx River Cowboy

Cowboys on the Bronx

Brittannia Rule the Bronx

The Old Drovers Inn

Look Out for the Little People!

Happy Birthday Bronx River Alliance

The Witch Canoe

Woodlawn Brook

The Mighty Kensico

The Battle of White Plains

Launching the Golden Ball

The Left Bank of the Bronx

Awaiting the Alewife

The Boltons of Bronxdale

Ann Hanson, the Bronx River Stevedore

Aunt Sarah Held the Bridge

Jerry, the Bronx River Sea Lion

How the Bronx Got Its Name

Lloyd Ultan's History of the Bronx River

The Wishing Rock

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Bronx?

Big Brown Joe Plugs the Pipe

Ungrateful Old Scrooge

Jonas the Peacemaker

Beaver Tales

Why the Beaver?

Bronx River Parkway Reservation

The Pudding Rock

The Rocking Stone

Edgar Allan Poe and the Bronx River

Shipbuilding on the Bronx

The First Canoes on the Bronx

There Were Bears in There

McAdam's Bronx River Driveway

The Mid-Bronx Ride of Paul Revere

The Many Names of Van Nest

The Frozen Water Trade

Colonel Burr Burns the Blockhouse

Beavers on the Bronx

Songs

Greenway Stories

River Restoration Stories

Video

The Frozen Water Trade

Back in the days before refrigeration was invented, people got their ice the old fashioned way:  they’d wait for a local lake or pond to freeze up good and thick, then go out with specially designed saws and cut the ice into handy blocks, which would then be stored in a sawdust-insulated “ice house.”

 

In the 1800s the “frozen water trade” was an important part of the economy of the northeastern states, and a valuable source of income for farmers during the snowed-over winter months.  Apart from cooling local ice-boxes, ice was exported as far afield as India and Australia. 

 

In this region, ice from the spring-fed Rockland Lake (near Nyack) was renowned for its purity, and the once-mighty ice industry there is today commemorated in the annual Knickerbocker Ice Festival in Rockland Lake State Park.

 

But while Rockland Lake ice had the “name-brand recognition,” there was at one time a great deal of ice harvesting on the Bronx River.  The pond above the Snuff Mill in the Botanical Garden was used as a source of ice.  Ice was also regularly harvested from the river’s ponds in the present-day Bronx Zoo until they became part of Bronx Park in the 1880s.  Cope Lake, fed by the Bronx River in the northwestern corner of the Bronx Zoo at Fordham Road and Southern Boulevard, produced ice good enough to support a commercial ice-harvesting operation between 1875 and 1885.

 

Increasing pollution put an end to Bronx River ice harvesting well before electric refrigeration finished off the frozen water trade, but the memory serves as a reminder of how clean the waters of the Bronx River once were.

 

Stephen Paul DeVillo