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Columns

August 10, 2013

A cool new business came to Oneonta in 1932

If July of 1932 was as hot as it was at times last month, local residents were finding as many ways possible to escape the heat. One unusual way of finding temporary relief 81 years ago was by attending an open house at the newly opened Stewart Ice plant, once found at today’s vacant 45 Valleyview St. in Oneonta.

“Stewart Ice, Inc., which has been operating since June 5, Oneonta’s newest industry, will hold open house Saturday and Sunday,” it was reported in The Oneonta Daily Star of Friday, July 15, 1932. “While many residents of Oneonta and vicinity have now and then visited the plant, it has not been generally known that this privilege is extended to all.” Personally conducted tours were promised, to show how “artificial” ice was made.

“To the average man in the street,” it was reported, “artificial ice is something that is made with ammonia, brine and water. However, this is a false impression, as the ice is neither artificial, nor does the ammonia or brine enter the water. It is merely pure water that has been frozen.” The ammonia and brine helped to freeze the water in the process, aided by power.

“The power for this plant is supplied by a 140 horsepower Fairbanks-Morse Diesel engine, which burns furnace oil. This supplies electric power through a generator in sufficient quantities for the lights and many motors which are used. This huge Diesel engine, which weighs about 10 tons, has a flywheel, which alone weighs three tons.”

The new plant was able to make about 35 tons of ice per day, and each block of ice produced was about 325 pounds, then split into 25- and 50-pound quantities for home or business delivery, or purchase at the plant. The entire freezing process took about 27 hours to complete.

At this open house, probably the biggest attraction during the offered tours was to step inside the ice storehouse for a few moments to take in the 27-degree temperature. While temperatures were reported to be in the 80s both days, no attendance figure was published.

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