Ice House

Ice House (HM1AGK)

Location: Charlottesville, VA 22902
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 0.638', W 78° 27.149'

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— Thomas Jefferson's Monticello —

Master carpenter James Dinsmore oversaw construction of this Ice House to Jefferson's design in 1802. Enslaved and hired workers filled it each year between November and February with ice cut from the nearby Rivanna River, shallow ponds, or snow collected from mountaintop. The ice usually lasted through the summer and was mainly used to preserve meat and butter and to chill wine, while snow was used to make ice cream.

The circular Ice House, 16 feet across and 16 feet deep, was intentionally located on the colder, north side of the house to help preserve the ice. The North Terrace above offered further protection from sun and water. The access door was locked for safety and to prevent theft.

If it is now as cold with you as it is here I am in hopes you will be able and ready to fill the icehouse. It would be a real calamity should we not have ice to do it, as it would require double the quantity of fresh meat in summer had we not ice to keep it.
Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Bacon, January 3, 1809

Maintaining a Store of Ice
When winter weather yielded ice as least an inch thick, Jefferson's overseer assembled a force of carts and wagons with teams and drivers, many of them hired locally, to transport the ice to the mountaintop. When the Ice House was filled for the first time, Jefferson recorded that it had "taken 62 waggon loads of ice" at a cost of $70 for "labour, feeding, drink, etc."

The ice was packed solid and insulated around the perimeter with straw or wood shavings. Each week as the ice melted, water had to be drawn off either by the bucket or pulley system Jefferson first envisioned, a pump, or a hand-drawn bucket.

Combatting Fire
The contents of the Ice House once served another purpose—saving the main part of the house from fire. Jefferson wrote to a friend in May 1819 about a blaze that damaged the North Pavilion: "Our snow house enabled us so far to cover with snow the adjacent terra (terrace) which connected it with the main building as to prevent its affecting that."
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, October 5th, 2014 at 8:27am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 723650 N 4210057
Decimal Degrees38.01063333, -78.45248333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 0.638', W 78° 27.149'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 0' 38.28" N, 78° 27' 8.94" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)434
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 949 Monticello Loop, Charlottesville VA 22902, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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