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Off Grid Ice House so you can chill like Pres. George W

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  • Off Grid Ice House so you can chill like Pres. George W

    That'd be 'George W' as in the founding father, George Washington.

    And here's what was left of that ice house, when they dug for a building to make larger Liberty Bell center:

    Click image for larger version

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    You might think, ugh--that idea is the pits!

    ...and you'd be right, but a pretty carefully designed pit:


    "My Ice House is about 18 feet deep and 16 square, the bottom is a Coarse Gravell & the water which drains from the ice soaks into it as fast as the Ice melts, this prevents the necessity of a Drain ... the Walls of my Ice House are built of stone without Mortar (which is called Dry Wall) untill within a foot and a half of the Surface of the Earth when Mortar was used from thence to the Surface to make the top more binding and Solid. When this Wall was brought up even with the Surface of the Earth, I stopped there and then dug the foundation for another Wall, two foot back from the first and about two foot deep, this done the foundation was laid so as to enclose the whole of the Walls built on the inside of the Hole where the Ice is put and on this foundation is built the Walls which appear above ground and in mine they are ten foot high. On these the Roof is fixed, and these walls are very thick, built of Stone and Mortar, afterwards rough Cast [stuccoed] on the outside. I nailed a Ceiling of Boards under the Roof flat from Wall to Wall, and filled the Space between the Ceiling and the Shingling of the Roof with Straw so that the heat of the Sun Cannot possibly have any Effect.

    In the Bottom of the Ice House I placed some Blocks of Wood about two foot long and on these I laid a Plat form of Common Fence Rails close enough to hold the Ice open enough to let the Water pass through, thus the Ice lays two foot from [above] the Gravel and of Course gives room for the Water to soak away gradually without being in contact with the Ice, which if it was for any time would waste it amazingly. The upper Floor [the floor of the icehouse] is laid on joists placed across the top of the Inner well and for greater security I nailed a Ceiling under those Joists and filled the Space between the Ceiling and Floor with Straw.

    The Door for entering this Ice house faces the north, a Trap Door is made in the middle of the Floor through which the Ice is put in and taken out. I find it best to fill with Ice which as it is put in should be broke into small pieces and pounded down with heavy Clubs or Battons such as Pavers use, if well beat it will after a while consolidate into one solid mass and require to be cut out with a Chizell or Axe. I tried Snow one year and lost it in June. The Ice keeps until October or November and I believe if the Hole was larger so as to hold more it would keep untill Christmas...
    "

    – Robert Morris to George Washington, June 15, 1784, George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, Library of Congress.
    This pic is from the house Washington used in Philadelphia, which was a temporary capital. According to the site (see link below), he had a similar one built at Mt. Vernon.

    Just thought this would be an interesting idea for both it's practical AND historical aspects.


    For the full story:
    http://www.ushistory.org/presidentsh...y/icehouse.php


    Been there, done that. Then been there again several times, because apparently I never learn.

  • #2
    Very interesting, Schneb. Thanks for the post.
    The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

    Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.

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    • #3
      That's pretty "cool". LOL! Couldn't help myself. Neat reading about such a useful, historical site and how the technology of the day let people enjoy something we take for granted. I've seen the pictures and read about the old commercial ice houses and how they kept ice through the heat of summer. It's amazing what can be done with sawdust. Thanks for the share Schneb.

      Dale
      Judge no one, until you have walked in the same mud and spilt the same blood. Him, I call brother.

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      • #4
        been surprised over the years - ever since the reality show biz started in on Alaska - that there isn't more usage of casual DIY ice houses ... only seen a few root cellar holes dug and lined with ice ... would seem to be a natural ....

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        • #5
          Be cool... to do this but to replace things like the straw with say modern spray foam and if you were to spray foam the insides of the stone walls in the building, maybe even in the pit... I wonder if it would improve over the straw or if we'd find out how great the straw can be.
          I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by CountryGuy View Post
            Be cool... to do this but to replace things like the straw with say modern spray foam and if you were to spray foam the insides of the stone walls in the building, maybe even in the pit... I wonder if it would improve over the straw or if we'd find out how great the straw can be.

            either spray foam or foam board would be advantageous over something like hay/straw - in the old days they lined with cork - hay gives them damn rodents bedding and a place to hide ....

            I'm looking to bury a 50 gal open head poly drum this spring - leave the barrel top above ground - line it with foam board - add it to my backyard caches - possibly use it for a root cellar if it goes serious SHTF ....
            Last edited by Illini Warrior; 03-05-2018, 07:12 PM.

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            • #7
              About using cork in the old days, I heard about a REALLY bad fire, a while ago--many decades, I think--that was in a warehouse that either was/used to be an ice house or a refrigerated warehouse. A lot of fire fighters died in it and the was a point where the chief directing them had to order those still outside not to go in to try to rescue guys who'd already entered and had a roof or such collapse on them. It was such a huge, awful fire because with the cork insulation the heat had built up and built up and they had a hard time venting it.

              I maybe misremembering the details on that--heard the story a long time ago. But it stuck with me because of the way the cork insulation had made things so much worse, and because of the fire chief having to make that call.

              Not related to the original topic, but comes to mind in terms of different types of insulation.
              Been there, done that. Then been there again several times, because apparently I never learn.

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              • #8
                The ice house was interesting. Maybe someone could come up with some ideas for off grid ice houses such as this.

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                • #9
                  Wonder if you could do this on a smaller scale or if the size and mass of the pit, stone walls and ice is what helps to keep it cold for months and months. the other big issue is getting the blocks of ice, it'd be expensive.At that time in history I believe they were coming out of the end of the last mini ice age so crazy cold winters would make for very thick ice on lakes, ponds and rivers. I recall seeing old drawings showing the icemen and all their tools for cutting out massive ice blocks from the rivers and using horse and mules to pull out the ice and then huge sleds to pull the blocks. A friend of my uncles has an ice business in Western PA where he supplies ice blocks to many of the Amish in the area for their old school ice boxes. as I recall they are about 8-10" long about 5-6" wide and maybe 4-5" thick. I'm betting the blocks in Georges day were measure in feet.
                  I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you!

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                  • #10
                    Country, Here is a pic of the type ice houses I remember as a kid. They always smelled like oak sawdust. I also remembered an article in The mother earth magazine from years ago. https://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/...e-zmaz72soztak I remember big blocks of ice going in, like 4 or 5 feet long by 10 or 12 inches thick and 3 feet tall. As a kid they seemed like a house. Some good memories.

                    Dale

                    Judge no one, until you have walked in the same mud and spilt the same blood. Him, I call brother.

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