Water is life. Can’t argue with that. And between the 1830s and the advent of mechanical refrigeration, frozen water was life’s preservation—the only way of keeping food fresh. Over that century, residents of a growing New York City area relied largely on the watery Hudson Valley for their ice. These days, the Hudson Valley pretty much relies on Binnewater Ice Co., founded in 1910 in Rosendale as Binnewater Lakes Ice Company by two guys with four ice wagons. In 1925, they bought the third and fifth of the Binnewater Lakes in 1925. They sold those lakes in 1929 to the Williams family, operators of what was once an iconic hotel, while retaining ice-harvesting rights.
Harvesting and processing ice was a formative Hudson Valley industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, revolutionizing the practices of farmers and fishermen alike now that food could be shipped to the city and beyond. In the 1880s, a workforce of 20,000 in various companies handled ice in 135 storehouses along the Hudson between Albany and Poughkeepsie. Ice harvesting was rough work; people ran the risk of falling in or getting squashed by hundred-pound ice blocks. It was also one of the only jobs that hired women, people of color, and less-favored immigrants; you could earn a dollar a day, and a lot of families survived the winter by ice harvesting. By 1930, the bulk of the industry had melted, so to speak; companies that couldn’t diversify their services just…dried up. Ice houses fell to ruin. The Binnewater folks, seeing the writing on the wall, had taken to manufacturing ice in a Kingston plant, since local markets for ice were still strong.
Binnewater Ice Co. was founded in 1910 in Rosendale as Binnewater Lakes Ice Company by two guys with four ice wagons.
With the industry tightening and the Great Depression ongoing, things got a little crazy and some rivals got downright inconsiderate. Binnewater’s plant burned in a suspicious fire in 1938; about a year later, two bombs were found. One exploded hard enough to “rock the city” but did “no great damage,” according to the newspaper headline at the time.
Fittingly, the Binnewater folks stayed cool and carried on, helping Rondout Valley farmers get their fresh produce to market. When the company went up for sale in the 1970s, it was purchased by corn farmers Gordon and Robert Davenport. Business—selling to retail stores and restaurants—was strong, especially as bagged ice cubes were now sold at many stores.
The Davenports formed an alliance with A.T. Reynolds & Sons, an ice company from Kiamesha Lake that had developed a better way to bag cubes, and joined them in distributing Leisure Time bottled water in the 1980s. But when Reynolds & Sons was bought out by Canadian companies, Binnewater decided to go its own way, developing their own Binnewater brand sourced from protected natural springs. Today’s Binnewater is a busy place. “We serve nine counties, which is a lot of miles and a lot of trucks,” says Marshall Gogg. “It gets crazy busy, especially in summer. And we try to cover all aspects of what you can do with our product.”
That they do. Besides providing ice, bottled water, and dispensers to offices, restaurants, retailers, and festivities of all sorts, Binnewater offers a coffee and tea service, de-icing products, and snowmaking. They’ve been hired to make snow for local movie productions, notably The Road to Wellville and Family Man, as well as for advertising, skiing and snowboarding ramps, and the occasional homeowner who just wants that White Christmas vibe.
Harvesting and processing ice was a formative Hudson Valley industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“We serve nine counties, which is a lot of miles and a lot of trucks.”
- Marshall Gogg, Binnewater Ice Co.
And water is still, and always, life. Sometimes the need is very immediate indeed, and when the power goes out, some things really must stay cold. “We do a lot of standby emergencies,” says Gogg. “If a medical facility has an emergency, we’re the ones they call.”
If you’re in need of water (more than a few neighborhoods in this area have sulfur-flavored water, which won’t hurt you but smells and tastes strong) or ice for a party, why not go straight to the source? Binnewater can onboard you for regular delivery in a heartbeat.
You’ll be dealing with happy people. “We’ve got an absolutely great crew of guys and gals,” says Gogg. “Even when it gets tough, we show up the next day with smiles on our faces.”
Binnewater Ice Co.
25 S Pine Street, Kingston