What is the Berkshire Ice Company?
Photo by Hilary Adorno
Along the north shore of Bantam Lake, there are a series of manmade concrete pillars and canals that arouse curiosity of visitors and residents alike.
In the days before Sub-Zero refrigerators there was the Berkshire Ice Company (established in 1908), which harvested ice from Bantam Lake to be delivered to the iceboxes of Connecticut and New York City residents. Bantam Lake ice journeyed on the Shepaug Valley Railroad, starting in Bantam through Steep Rock, to the Housatonic line and onward. This large operation included an 87,000-square-foot icehouse with a 60,000-ton capacity, storing 300-pound blocks of ice (“cakes”) and dormitories for many of the 140 employees. Ice was furiously harvested during the winter and stored (insulated with hay and sawdust), then shipped via rail throughout the year.
The still-intact pillars (shown above) were part of an intricate conveyor-belt system used to transport the cakes to the icehouse, originally powered by horses and later by a 100-horsepower engine, assisted by the Bantam Falls power plant. The canals were used to chisel out uniform-sized cakes, returning the remnant ice back to the lake.
The one-two-punch of affordable home refrigeration combined with a devastating August 1929 fire ended the Berkshire Ice Company. The land was sold to The White Memorial Foundation.
You can see what is left by heading left before you reach the Litchfield Town Beach launch.