The West End Ice House
by Pierce Rafferty
One of the first buildings E.M. & W. Ferguson constructed following their purchase of most of Fishers Island in 1889 was the West End Ice House, recorded as “Building No. 7” on their ledgers. Built in 1892, it was located adjacent to West Harbor across from today‟s Mobil Station. A brick Power House (today‟s Electric Co, building) was constructed next door in 1898.
In the days before mechanical refrigeration and the widespread commercial manufacturing of ice, every household and many commercial businesses depended on a steady supply of naturally harvested ice. As the resort on Fishers Island rapidly expanded in the 1890s, the demand exceeded the supply from Barlow‟s Ice House on Barlow Pond and another smaller Ice House on Middle Farms Pond near today‟s Schutz house. Consequently, ice was often imported to Fishers Island and off-loaded from schooners and barges for storage at the centrally located West End Ice House. (See accompanying photo of the conveyor belt that linked the Ice House to the Mansion House wharf.) The building itself was 61-feet wide, 60-feet deep, and 28-feet high to the peek of the roof. Outside walls were 18-inch thick and filled with sawdust to a height of 16 feet. The center wall was 12-inches thick and also filled with sawdust to that same height. A milk storage section was built into the rear of one part of the building with 12-inch partitions filled with sawdust.
Long gone and all but forgotten today, the Ice House was once central to the infrastructure of Fishers Island. Although photographs and textual records indicate the West End Ice House operated well into the 1920s, it was made obsolete by mechanical refrigeration and razed at an undetermined date. If any readers know when it was taken down, please contact Pierce Rafferty at the HLFM.