Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cutting Ice On Jamaica Pond

The following is an excerpt from an article on the ice business in the Boston area. It looks like they took ice out every local pond of more than a few acres. When my parents bought a house on Brewer street in Jamaica Plain in the early 1960s, there was an old ice box on the second floor landing of the back hall, and a gas light fixture on the wall nearby. Evidently, when the original owners sold the house, they didn't want to deal with getting rid of the thing. We left it behind as well. I keep waiting to see the thing show up on Antique's Roadshow.

Putting aside Global Warming, there certainly has been a local warming based on Jamaica Pond. My parents skated on the pond during the 1930s. My mother loved to skate, and her mother made her a pink skating skirt that she wore for years with pride. They were poor people, and that skirt was a precious posession, still remembered with love for her mother. By the time I was growing up in the 1960s, the No Skating signs were up every winter. My late father told me that they would send a team of horses out on to the ice - if it held them, the skates were allowed out.

Boston Daily Globe February 15, 1880


Some of the Uses to Which It May be Put.

The Outlook with Regard to Next Summer.

Plenty of It, But It May Come High.

Jamaica Pond Ice Company.

The Jamaica Pond Ice Company is one of the most enterprising companies in or around Boston. Mr Phineas B. Smith, the president, has been in the ice business for the past twenty-five years, and his large experience enables him to take advantage of every circumstance that will contribute to the securing of a good quality of crystalized water. This company has twenty-two houses at Jamaica Pond, with a capacity of 30,000 tons, and all of the modern appliances for cutting and storing it. At Hammond's pond in Newton, near Brookline, they secure 8000 tons, and in Medfield pond 6000 tons. They also store 3000 tons in three stores in Roxbury, two of them on Palmer street and one on Washington street above Dale street, making in all 47,000 tons, which they secore and use yearly. The company now has 12,000 tons of old ice on hand. They commenced cutting on Jamaica pond early last week, but the mild weather compelled them to stop. The ice was then ten inches in thickness and of excellent quality. They are now cutting ice thirteen inches thick in Medfield, but have not commenced operations on Hammond's pond, where there are 5000 tons stored. This company has gathered ice as late as March 15, and in 1876 did not commence cutting until March 3. In 1864 and 1870 they also cut the most of their ice in March. This company supplies the most of the people in Brookline, West Roxbury district, Boston Highlands, Dorchester and the South End south of Northhampton street. At present they are delivering twenty tons per day, which is cut from Jamaica Pond and loaded directly on the wagons. During ice-cutting they employ 600 men, among the most needy in the community, and to whom they pay $12,000: also 100 teams used in hauling ice to the breweries. Among other items, to show the expense of the work, may be mentioned labor $30,398.87; feed, $6487.05; shoeing, $1255.74; harness repairs, $500; total expenses, $95,590.87. Seventy-five men are employed during the summer.


  1. One of the persistant rumors that my parents pushed on us was that a bottom was never found to the Jamaica Pond. I think this was their way of making sure we took no chances at swimming on hot afternoons in the summer months of the 50's. I also remember that a hot headed man who looked like Kramer on Seinfeld (his name was Harry???) ran the boathouse and his mother minded the cash register. We loved to get an "ice cream horn" at the end of our walk around the pond. My favorite flavor was maple walnut.

  2. every town seems to have a "bottomless" pond. Jamaica Pond is about 50 feet deep.