March 15, 2008
Ice Cutting on Hopedale Pond
Hopedale in March The Stolen Bust Milford Day in Florida
Judging by the responses I've had, many of you enjoyed Roy Rehbein's story of a nighttime dip in
Hopedale Pond back in the 1940s. Here's another page of memories he sent a couple of weeks ago.
Much of this covers the final years of Drapers......and more - Growing up in Hopedale.
Aerosmith fans might be interested in this site. Especially anyone who is also into Guitar Hero.
Thanks to Dick Grady for the link.
Years ago there were three icehouses on Hopedale Pond; one near the present location of Lake
Street, another, near where the bathhouse now stands, operated by Henry Patrick who owned the
grocery store in the center of town, and a third on the west side of the pond. That one was by far the
largest, and it was still in use long after the others were gone. Gordon Hopper wrote about it in the
article below. This is a shortened version. Click here for the complete article and links to more pictures.
Ice Cutting on Hopedale Pond
By Gordon E. Hopper
There was a commercial interest once operating on the shore and on the surface of Hopedale Pond.
An item in the Milford News for Sept. 14, 1890, stated that the Hopedale Ice Company was in the
process of constructing three new icehouses. Each one was to be 120 feet long and 30 feet wide.
Shortly after the construction of the buildings had been completed, the Grafton and Upton Railroad
installed a track between their main line and the icehouses. Commencing then and continuing until
sometime after 1920, railroad cars carried ice from these buildings to markets and customers in
An example of the amount of ice harvested by this operation is that 12,000 tons of ice was recorded
as having been cut and stored during the season of 1920.
There were several times during the years in which the Hopedale Ice Company cut ice on the pond
when the structures caught on fire. They were always repaired or replaced and business continued
until sometime in 1942.
Once instance took place during 1904. In that year, plans were made to build a bathhouse. It was
decided to take down the old icehouse and to use its lumber for the frame and sheathing of the new
bathhouse. While the building was being dismantled it caught on fire. The fire spread to the woods and
made its way to Darling Hill. (The ridge along the Hopedale-Mendon town line.) It consumed several
hundred acres of woodland and burned for a week. The Grafton and Upton Railroad carried containers
of water to the area, where it was used in combating the flames.
Russell Dennett of the Hopedale Coal and Ice Company can recall the times during the 1940s when
he and other local high school students were employed to cut or store the cakes of ice after school
hours and on Saturdays.
Normally, the ice was cut by a man operating a gasoline powered machine which drove a large
circular saw blade through and along the ice as he moved along the surface. Previous to the days of
powered operations, it was necessary to scrape the snow away from the area to be cut. A special line
marker tool was used to mark the ice where cuts were to be made. Using the marks made by this tool
as a guide, a man would then cut through the ice using a handsaw.
The pieces of ice would be pushed by men using special tools, along an open channel leading to the
run where there was a conveyor on the outside of the building. The device would carry the ice up to
where it would be pushed into a storage spot inside the icehouse.
Without fail someone would slip and fall into the icy water. This meant a trip home, a change into dry
clothing, return to the job, and then to absorb some kidding and ridicule from other workers.
Before the end of the ice cutting operations on Hopedale Pond had arrived, the original three
buildings had been changed to become a very large seven section single building.
Cutting ice came to a conclusion during 1942. In December of 1944, the entire property was
purchased by Thomas and Priscilla West. (He was the president of Draper Corporation.) The
icehouses were removed and today a beautiful home stands on the site.
It is interesting to note that between the time when cutting operations ceased and 1955, the
Hopedale Coal and Ice Company manufactured 20 tons of ice each day at the Hope Street facility. This
was done by machine and was in the form of 300 pound blocks. (If they produced 20 tons a day for
every day in the year, it would still be less than the 12,000 tons mentioned above for 1920. However, by
the 1940s, many people had refrigerators and demand for ice must have been falling.)
The pump house associated with the icehouse was sold in 1948 and moved away. A team of large
horses owned by William Taylor hauled the building to a new location behind the Durgin home at 120
Dutcher Street in Hopedale.
The small structure was named "The Little Red Schoolhouse" and was operated as a nursery school
by Mrs. Ethel Durgin from 1948 until 1959. A bell once used on a very old American LaFrance Hopedale
Fire Department ladder truck reposes today on one end of this very substantial building.
Even if the old pump house from the Hopedale Ice Company's operation is gone and the Little Red
Schoolhouse may also be gone, something still remains. The building continues to exist, now serving
as a workshop for its owner, Hopedale's Fire Chief, Herbert S. Durgin.. Milford Daily News, January
Helen L. Brown, 83, February 23, 2008, HHS 1942.
Anita (Buroni) Volpe, 78, February 25, 2008, HHS 1947.
Dr. Henry N. Iacovelli, 93, March 6, 2008.
Andrew Nealley, 84, March 7, 2009, Springfield, Missouri.
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