Chip Off the Old Block

Chip Off the Old Block

At a museum’s annual ice harvest in South Bristol, hundreds of volunteers try their hand at the historic tradition.

Text and photography by Dave Dostie

Issue: December 2020

Every year visitors and volunteers gather in South Bristol to harvest ice in block-form from Thompson Pond. Many of the tools and techniques used for the Thompson Ice House Harvesting Museum’s annual event are the

same as when Asa Thompson first started harvesting ice from the pond in 1826. Volunteers cut large blocks of ice with various gas- and hand-powered saws, a truck and pulley system lifts the blocks from the water onto a large wooden hoist and sled system, then the blocks slide down the wooden rails into an old barn, where they are stacked until the space is filled. On February 16, 2020, hundreds of people joined for this one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience a tradition that has been alive for nearly two centuries. Kenneth Lincoln, president of the Thompson Ice House Corporation, the nonprofit that manages the museum, spent much of the day operating a large antique ice saw. Throughout the day, visitors worked together to harvest ice while learning about the nineteenth-century industry that employed tens of thousands of Mainers.

The 2021 ice harvest at the Thompson Ice House is tentatively scheduled for February 14.

Hundreds of people gather in February to help harvest ice and learn about the tradition.
Ice ready to be harvested.
Pike poles are used to guide ice up the ramp.

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