The Iceman Cometh! (But I don’t need him because I have a Potato Cooler!)

In the early days, refrigeration was a new and expensive thing. Even when the electric fridge was invented and built for the domestic consumer (right around the time this building was built -1916), the common way of keeping goods cold was by buying ice from the Iceman who would cometh on a regular basis to supplieth the ice for the ice box.

Beholdeth:  Proof via Wikipedia (so you know it’s true):

< Exhibit A  Exhibit B>




Now, it came to pass that some clever guy came up with a way to save money on ice. Maybe he didn’t like his iceman to cometh around so much. Maybe buying what is essentially just frozen  water from the river, seemed silly to him. So, he (I’m guessing it was a he, it always was, back then) figured that, in the colder days at least, he could keep some of his food in a little box built into the exterior wall of the apartment. Because this box was built into the exterior wall, the cold from outside would penetrate the box easily, thus keeping his lovely perishables (like butter or something) nice and cool. Smart, huh? It’s also a good spot to keep your potatoes and what-have-yous because it’s a cool, dark spot!

Behold, we have such a thing in our kitchen! (lost the door thought)

Potatoes! Butter! What have you! (Everything but the kitchen sink. Because as you can see, there is literally no sink here)

And this how it looks with the door on… (This is NOT our kitchen. It’s just a photo of some other person’s dilemma, er, kitchen.)

Photo: Keither Scott Morton for Country Living


3 thoughts on “The Iceman Cometh! (But I don’t need him because I have a Potato Cooler!)

  1. I have seen those years ago in many pre-war New York City apartments, however the door was always painted shut and have always wondered what they were. Thanks so much for posting — any idea where I can find more photos?

    • You know, it’s strange how difficult it is to find such photos online. For me it’s because I didn’t really know how to call it. Potato cooler doesn’t seem to throw up much more online, though it is the more accepted term for what that box is. Aside from the ones I posted, I only have those I took of my neighbors’ “specimens” that still have the door on them!

      • Thanks for the reply. I have also heard “Winter Fridge” but that brings up a larger type box. I recall seeing so many of those units growing up in NYC, all of them very much like the photo on the website. Even way back then, each one I saw was painted shut and no one new anything about what those things were. The photo really brings back memories, and finally answers a question. Thanks!

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