“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Ice House


Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Ice House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, August 23, 2013
1. Ice House Marker
Inscription.  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
Ice House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael C. Wilcox, August 1, 2012
2. Ice House Marker
(Note: The North Terrace Wing marker is the one around the corner.)
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."
Location. 38° 0.638′ N, 78° 27.149′ W. Marker is in Charlottesville, Virginia, in Albemarle County. Marker can be reached from Thomas Jefferson Parkway. Marker is on the grounds of Monticello and requires an entrance fee. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Charlottesville VA 22902, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. North Terrace Wing (within shouting distance of this marker); Barrier (within shouting distance
Ice House image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, August 23, 2013
3. Ice House
of this marker); Mulberry Row (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Textiles (about 400 feet away); Smokehouse/Dairy (about 400 feet away); The Levy Legacy (about 400 feet away); Slave Housing (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Mulberry Row (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Charlottesville.
Categories. African AmericansSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels

More. Search the internet for Ice House.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 26, 2020. This page originally submitted on August 28, 2013, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 564 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on August 28, 2013, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.   2. submitted on December 15, 2016, by Michael C. Wilcox of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.   3. submitted on August 28, 2013, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.
Paid Advertisement