Recent months have been busy with rebuilding and advancing plans for further rebuilding. Soon I’ll share an update on our summer 2022 deck rebuild, and I promise that it’ll be worth the wait. Until then, I’ll tease out another potential rebuild on the horizon. But first, by way of introduction, I offer you an icehouse haiku.
for winter ice in summer,
Sometimes a morsel is all we need. And for some of you this may be plenty. A glimpse into my recent ruminations on Rosslyn’s historic icehouse.
If a poem is way of repurposing an experience, a subject, an idea, then drifting into recent evolution of our icehouse vision via an icehouse haiku seems appropriate. We are, after all, returning to the many times delayed and postponed notion of completing the icehouse rehabilitation initiated back in 2006 and 2007. By the end of this week we may — fingers crossed — be able to offer an exciting update. For now a few brief sketches will suffice, minimalist asides underpinning the idea of repurposing this circa 1889 utility building in a way that is relevant and useful to us today.
Intrinsic to the Icehouse Haiku
Underlying the ultra compact words of the icehouse haiku above (and the composited photo and sketch above) are sixteen years of brainstorming and iterating (and repeatedly postponing) plans for rehabilitating the icehouse.
Rehabilitation fails with no sustainable plan for use. — Stef Noble (Source: Demolition Dedux)
Our earliest plans for revitalizing Rosslyn rested on this idea that use, usability, contemporary relevance is fundamental to successful historic rehabilitation. Sensitive, responsible, historically and architecturally accurate, yes. But most important, the building must have a functional reason to endure.
More on this anon, but for now a few glimpses backward in time…
My earliest inkling about icehouse-ness hearkens back about four and a half decades to Homeport, the Wadhams, New York property that my parents restored when I was young. Although already removed prior to my parents’ purchase of Homeport in the mid/late 1970s, I grew up aware that there had been an icehouse just beyond the “sunporch”, my parents’ summer bedroom. The idea fascinated me. A house full of ice. My youthful imagination conjured up all sorts of fanciful possibilities that history fated to exist in my imagination only.
Before tripping further down memory lane, let’s get onto an equal footing with respect to icehouses in general. What exactly were they?
An ice house, or icehouse, is a building used to store ice throughout the year, commonly used prior to the invention of the refrigerator…
During the winter, ice and snow would be cut from lakes or rivers, taken into the ice house, and packed with insulation (often straw or sawdust). It would remain frozen for many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice during the summer months. The main application of the ice was the storage of foods, but it could also be used simply to cool drinks… (Source: Wikipedia)
Ever since my Homeport days I’ve been intrigued by life in the era of icehouses. And so inheriting one when we purchased Rosslyn was a particular pleasure. All the more so when I came across Sally Lesh’s personal recollection of the icehouse at Rosslyn (aka Hyde Gate).
Directly across the road, ice was cut every winter from the frozen lake surface. All these years later, I can picture the huge square hole full of dark water where the big blocks of ice had been cut by men using long saws. Each block was then hauled out. I have no idea how the block of ice was carried up the steep rocky bank and across the road, up the sloping driveway past the house, past the big barn that houses the carriage and the car, and finally to the icehouse, where it was buried in sawdust. We had iceboxes then, no refrigerators. The ice was broken into square chunks that fit neatly into the tin-lined top compartment of the icebox. I do clearly recall picking tiny bits of sawdust out of my summertime lemonade throughout my childhood. — Sally Lesh, All My Houses: a Memoir (Source: Sally Lesh & the story of Hyde Gate | Rosslyn Redux)
Sawdust in lemonade seems a small price to pay for frosty beverages and safely preserved perishables long before refrigeration came to Essex. I imagine that somewhere, some day, I’ll come across some historic photographs documenting this very practice Lesh brings to life, but until then I’ll dwell in my imagination.
As a final sketch before wrapping up this icehouse haiku rumination, let’s revisit these words from an older post.
The inspector opined that the boathouse and icehouse were probably unrecoverable. Use them while we could or demolish and replace them. There were other eleventh hour surprises that jeopardized the sale too, but demolition as a recommendation was unnerving. Rosslyn’s boathouse was precisely what I’d fallen for. Tear it down? No chance. And the icehouse promised to be the perfect office/studio/playhouse. Think desk, easel, pool table, bar! (Source: Demolition: Rosslyn Dedux)
Okay, it’s long past the point that I should have abbreviated this runaway reflection. Go figure, I started with a microscopic poem, but then the words just came tumbling out. Sorry!