Then & Now

West Point cadets and the sex-and-drug ’60s; IBM, Luckey Platt, and ice harvesters; airports, bridges, and those famous ferries. Join us for a look back at the last 100 years of Valley history


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Residents use an ice-cutter on the Hudson RiverReprinted with permission from Highlands by Dr. Randolph Preston Schaffner

Cold Cuts

Then: Believe it or not, the Valley’s harvest used to be most bountiful not in the fall, but the winter. Ice harvesting — the practice of cutting ice from a frozen body of water, moving it to land using picks and tongs, and storing it in an icehouse for later sale — was quite popular (and profitable) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when homeowners and companies needed ice to refrigerate and freeze food. Harvesting occurred both on the Hudson and on other nearby bodies of water, such as Hessian Lake (above left). Harvesters preferred ice at least seven or eight inches thick. The best batches came early in winter, before January hit. The industry produced three million tons of ice annually in the Valley and employed up to 20,000 workers each year. The emergence of artificial refrigeration in the 1930s and 1940s effectively killed the industry.

Now: More and more people are again relying on Mother Earth — rather than carbon-emitting air conditioners and refrigerators — to cool their homes. Rhinebeck-based Hudson Valley Clean Energy, for example, installs geothermal units on customers’ property, drilling loops 350-500 feet deep that push heat into the ground during the summer and pull it back into the home during the winter.


If you like what you see here, check out, the Web site of Arcadia Publishing. The leading publisher of history books in the U.S., the company generously supplied many of the vintage photographs for this article. Their list includes a large number of titles that profile Valley cities, towns, and other popular locations.

Next: Newburgh-Beacon Ferry


Click on any image below to view more historic photos from 'round the Valley


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