GLOUCESTER, Mass. -- An historic business in a busy spot.
"Gloucester is a very proud fishing port - it’s the oldest fishing port in America," said Scott Memhard, president of Cape Pond Ice, a staple on the harbor that's frozen in time yet adjusting to a modern landscape.
When the business was founded in 1848, ice was a major innovation.
"The fishing industry was really our bread and butter," said Memhard. "It was crucially important that the fishing industry have a reliable supply of ice."
During tours of the historic ice house, launched after the business was mentioned in "The Perfect Storm", visitors look back on a material first harvested in nature.
"We think we have a really interesting story to share," says Memhard. "We’re part of a historical tradition that many people have forgotten about."
He leads visitors to the factory floor, dating back to 1945 when ice making turned mechanical. This is where the action happens.
"The Block Tank - we still call it our pond as an anachronism to our old days - is a steel and concrete tank the size of a swimming pool," he said.
Through an ammonia refrigeration system, fresh, filtered water is frozen in giant ice-cube trays, raised up, rinsed and released in huge chunks that are solid and frigid. The process is fascinating to watch. Each block of ice is 4 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 350 pounds. Cape Pond Ice can produce 1800 blocks or 300 tons of ice a day. Much is stored in the freezer, kept at 28 degrees fahrenheit.
"People love the experience of coming into the Cape Pond Ice Company Ice House because it’s such a tactile experience," said Memhard, noting that employees are accustomed to working in the cold.
To diversify, Cape Pond Ice now delivers product to restaurants, stores and camps while also supplying ice sculptures to weddings and events. But, step onto the dock and witness the fishing industry - struggling yet still significant.
"The ice is conveyed out of the plant on a screw conveyor system," said Memhard, as a large fishing boat pulls into an icing station. Crushed ice is blown into holding tanks to keep fish cool during long journeys at sea.
"Gloucester has always been a destination for vacationers, it’s been an artists colony," said Memhard, pointing towards the beautiful landscape which sports both a recreational and industrial feel. "There is a real proud history here."
Ice is woven into the fabric of the community...a material that's temporary yet invaluable.
"We hope that people will feel differently about ice - not take it for granted as you tend to do - after a visit to Cape Pond Ice Company," says Memhard.
From June to August, tours of Cape Pond Ice take place seven days a week. Tickets cost $10. for adults, and $8 for seniors and kids. Children under 7 are free. Click here for more information.