When Ice Harvesting and Ice Kept Kalispell Cool


Before Frigidaire and temperature control, an industry around ice formed in Kalispell and other tiny towns across America. Ice harvests every winter filled household ice boxes with enough chill to last through the summer, assuring ice cubes that kept lemonade refreshing during the peak heat of the summer.

    In Kalispell, ice was harvested at Lawrence Park, back when the Northwest Dam diverted some of the water for the purpose. Local farms required ice deliveries several times a week, lest their dairy product spoil.          

    Refrigerated railroad cars also depended on little pieces of winter through the summertime so that food survived transportation on the Great Northern. The railroad’s ice house was built in 1902 and 8-inch thick walls insulated the ice. The icehouse sits south of Kalispell—an old brown building.

   At the turn of the century, craftsmen built iceboxes out of wood. Interior insulated trays held the ice. Home delivery was made as needed via horse drawn wagon. In Kalispell, J.J. Lebert farmed what is now Lawrence Park. Harvests came twice a year—ice in the winter and wood in the spring. Turning the frozen lake into workable chunks of winter wore down the teeth of ice saws and sharpenings were frequent. Once broken apart, ice was taken to icehouses—where sawdust preserved the frozen water from heat.

   Once delivered to the home, icepicks were necessary and Lebert’s businesss gave out wooden handled picks to his customers—J.J. Lebert was engraved on the handle.  Iceboxes boasted thick wooden walls to further preserve the cool, and were made by craftsman and built to last.       

   Ice wasn’t Lebert’s sole enterprise, he struck up a sawmill business on the side and would later start a wholesale candy and snack company. His grandson is still in Kalispell and owns Apache Pawn Shop.

Power of the Pen

C. Hensleigh