There’s probably still a few folks in Bellevue who still remember the old ice house and ice harvesting operation on North Riverview, which operated from the early 1900s through the early 1950s.
Longtime residents will most likely recall when large chucks of ice were hauled to their homes to keep the food cold, before everyone had refrigerators.
Even in the late 1940s and early 1950s (even though refrigerators were common), many homes in Bellevue did not have one.
Today, remnants of the former ice harvesting operation still remain on North Riverview across the road from the Bellevue Municipal Power Plant, including an underground tunnel underneath Highway 52, which was used to transport large chunks of ice to the old ice house above.
According to old excerpts from the Bellevue Herald and Bellevue Leader newspapers, the first mention of ice harvesting in Bellevue appeared in the newspapers around 1880, and the ice house operation on Riverview appears to have officially opened around 1900, as this small article in the January, 16, 1900 issue of the Bellevue Herald indicates.
“The ice industry carried on in this city is by no means of minor importance, but one that gives employment to quite a number of people while the work is in progress. Chas. Conkling is Bellevue’s ice gatherer and informs us that he will gather no less than 3,000 tons of the congealed fluid. He will probably begin cutting for foreign parties this week should the ice remain good. Eighteen men and 18 teams are constantly kept going to and fron the different ice houses here, while 20 men are at work on the ice field.”
From the Feb. 5, 1907 Bellevue Herald, “The ice harvest in this place is about completed for 1907. There is always a great amount of ice cut here as all the stations on the narrow gauge rail line depend on Bellevue for their supply and there is generally a large amount shipped to other nearby towns. There is a chance to materially increase this business here with the right amount and kind of advertising. In one day last week the men at Savanna loaded 70 cars for shipment. There is no reason why Bellevue should not ship as much ice as Savanna. We have the water, the cold weather and the men and the teams.”
From the Oct. 26, 1914 Bellevue Leader, “Ed Butler informs us that he proposes to give Bellevue an artificial ice plant next spring. He will have a five-ton capacity plant and will erect a building for that purpose on his lot in North Bellevue. Ed Butler is a live wire and nothing is ever too good for his patrons and he promises ice service next summer which is sure to meet with the highest approval.”
From the Jan. 14, 1915 Bellevue Leader, “Hairgrove Brothers started a large force of men and teams at work Wednesday morning harvesting the ice crop. Tietjen’s big tractor is being used to hoist the ice up the long slides from the river’s edge to the two immense houses on north Front Street, which greatly facilitate the work. A splendid quality of the frozen liquid is being secured.”
From the Feb. 8, 1921 Bellevue Herald, “James Gross, proprietor of the Bellevue Ice Co., started a large crew of men at work putting up ice. The ice is towed from above the dams north of town in large cakes by McColley Bros., with two launches and is then sawed into small cakes and elevated to the ice house by machinery. The ice is 8 to 12 inches thick.”
From the Dec. 6, 1938 Bellevue Herald, “Ben Roling of the Bellevue Ice and Coal Co., is erecting a building of 32 by 38 feet east of his office in North Bellevue which will house a modern locker refrigeration plant. In the lockers, strawberries, peas, corn and all vegetables may be frozen for winter use and fresh meats may be kept by those renting lockers.”
From the Feb. 23, 1939 Bellevue Leader, “Putman Bros. finished harvesting ice Saturday for their own
The ice harvesting in Bellevue continued through the early 1950s, and also supplied ice to commercial fisherman as well as for the former Bellevue Meat Locker, operated by at one time by Delbert Daniels and owned by Geneva (Mrs. Daryl) Hovey.
Today, the ice house and meat locker are no longer in existence, but the old underground tunnel and a portion of the locker remain.