Ice Cutting on Hopedale Pond - A Memory Rekindled
                                                      By Gordon E. Hopper

      HOPEDALE - Most of the shoreline around Hopedale Pond appears today probably like the way in
    which nature had intended it to be.

      With the covering of brush, trees and other undergrowth found there today plus the public and private
    property sections found on the waterfront, it is a little difficult to conceive the previous existence of any
    industry at this pond.

      As you probably now surmise, yes, there was a commercial interest once operating on the shore
    and on the surface of Hopedale Pond. A Hopedale item in the Milford News for Sept. 14, 1890, stated
    that the Hopedale Ice Company was in the process of constructing three new ice houses. Each one
    was to be 120 feet long and 30 feet wide.

      Shortly after the construction of this cluster of buildings had been completed, the Grafton and Upton
    Railroad installed a spur track between their main line and the ice houses. Commencing then and
    continuing until sometime after 1920, railroad cars carried ice from these buildings to markets and
    customers in Boston.

      The spur left the main line at a point a little north of the Freedom Street railroad crossing and curved
    through the woods until it reached a loading area near the ice houses. Examination of the railroad
    siding area today reveals a much grown up wooded area but signs of the abandoned siding roadbed
    are still slightly visible.

      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.

      One instance took place during 1904. In that year, plans were made to build a bathhouse in the
    Hopedale Parklands. It was decided to take down the old ice house and to use its lumber for the
    frame and sheathing of the new bath house. While the building was being dismantled it caught on fire.
    (This sounds like Hopper is referring to a Hopedale Ice Company icehouse, but other sources say that
    it was the Henry Patrick icehouse on the east side of the pond that was going to be razed and the
    lumber used for the bathhouse.)

      Being an old dry building, it burned so rapidly that the lives of the men working on the roof were
    endangered. Their tools and the implements stored inside the building were quickly consumed, the
    men being forced to vacate very quickly.

      If this wasn't bad enough, the fire spread to the woods and made its way to Darling Hill. (Darling Hill
    was the name of the Parklands area west of Hopedale Pond along the Hopedale-Mendon town line.)  It
    consumed several hundred acres of woodland and burned for a week, despite the efforts to extinguish
    it. It is documented that 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. One man who cut ice by
    this method was Lee P. Taylor.

      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 hand saw.

      The pieces of ice, after being cut, would be pushed by men using special tools for the purpose,
    along an open water channel leading to the run which was actually a conveyor installed on the outside
    of the building. The device would carry the ice up to where it would be pushed by men into a storage
    spot inside the ice house.

      Without fail, no matter where ice cutting was done, it was always common for someone to 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. A windmill and a
    pump house were utilized to obtain power. (Just a thought here. Doesn't it seem more likely that the
    windmill operated the pump rather than the windmill and pump house were used for power? Since ice
    was often kept cold by insulating it with sawdust, perhaps as it was about to be shipped out, it was
    rinsed with water from the pond, pumped by the windmill.)  

      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 ice
    houses 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.

      There is a little more to the story because a memento remains of the ice business which is not
    generally known.  The pump house associated with the ice house 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.

      It was re-shingled, its sidewalls were covered with new material, and the building was painted red.  
    The small structure was named "The Little Red Schoolhouse" and, it 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.

      Although the outside walls have been covered, one small area was left untouched to allow the
    original construction to remain visible. The building uses 6-inch studs and both inside and outside
    were rough boarded.

       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.

      A toast to its long life. Milford Daily News, January 27, 1975.

      I think it's likely that the Hopedale Ice Company and the Hopedale Coal Company were under the
    same ownership which originated with the Hopedale Stable. Eventually they were combined as the
    Hopedale Coal and Ice Company.

                              More on the icehouses, including pictures              Now and Then - Coal & Ice   

Cutting ice on Lake Nipmuc - video on YouTube              Businesses Menu                  HOME  

    This item from Perry MacNevin's collection of Hopedale-related material is interesting
    and somewhat similar to what the Hopedale Coal & Ice Company was doing on Hopedale
    Pond, but it is of an earlier period, so some of the things shown here were modernized a
    bit by the period described by Hopper.

             More on the icehouses, including pictures              Now and Then - Coal & Ice   

Cutting ice on Lake Nipmuc - video on YouTube              Businesses Menu                  HOME