About Tom French

Tom French splits his time between the Adirondacks and the Thousand Islands from his home in Potsdam. More information about his writing can be found at Tom-French.net.

Reader Interactions


  1. Joe Kozlina says

    What are we doing here? Having fun or burning thru fossil fuels to build an Ice sculpture? Cutting the ice by handsaw seems to be the way to preserve the adirondacks for our children to enjoy these ice sculptures when they grow up. Or dont build them if they will harm our children in the future. Time to see the art in creating beautiful structures for our grandkids to enjoy without the selfishness of doing the same destructive activities we used to do. Lets be creative and use what the good earth has provided us, clean ice, clean air and clean water. None of what I see happening here gives me that. I see noise, gasoline fumes and diesel smog. How about next year we end the use of fossil fuels to build this castle and use more volunteers to gather and move the ice by hand and man power and breathe clean air and listen to the peace and quiet of the Saranac Lake.

  2. James says

    Cutting the ice by hand saw, really? Without fossil fuels the poorest among us will suffer the most. I am looking forward to the next generation of scientists who will empirically, and clinically, fix this misanthropic elitist fraud on the public.

  3. joe kozlina says

    Some history of the ice palace….Looking Back
    In 1898, members of the Pontiac Club, a winter sports club founded by several men (one of whom was Dr. Edward L. Trudeau, famous pioneer of tuberculosis treatment) supported the idea of building an ice palace. As the goal of this club was to encourage good health practices and take advantage of the rugged climate, a winter carnival and the building of an ice palace clearly helped meet these objectives.

    In early years, construction of the Palace was put out to bid. Ice harvesters, used to working with ice, applied for the contract. It took several weeks for the selected contractor and his men to build these mammoth centerpieces of the Carnival. According to an article by Emily Abendroth, Adirondack Daily Enterprise Weekender, 6 February 1993, they “…featured indoor rooms, staircases, towers, and battlements which soared to 60′.” Those ice fortresses certainly succeeded in creating excitement and delight, not only for residents and visitors, but for the thousands of tubercular patients who were curing in Saranac Lake’s bone-chilling winters.

    In the 1960s, when the cost of paying for the palace construction became too much, volunteers stepped forward and took over the organizing, designing and building. That is still how it is done today.

    Construction Methods
    Gasoline powered saws came into use around 1919. Before that, the cutting of ice blocks was done by horses pulling an ice “plow” back and forth along a marked line to saw through the lake ice. This piece of equipment, resembling a farmer’s plow had, instead of a blade, a long horizontal row of 6 to 8 large teeth which cut several inches down into the ice. Final cuts were made with manual one-handled ice saws which look very much like logging saws and are still in use today.

    In 1909, 1911 – 1913 and 1920, the palaces were built atop Slater Hill (where North Country Community College now stands), most likely because of better visibility. A kind of horse-driven elevator was developed to drag the blocks up-slope to this challenging lofty site.

    In the earliest years of Palace construction, horses pulled the massive blocks out of the water, assisted by men using ice tongs. A chute was slid into the water to help ease the process. Horses and later vehicles dragged the ice from the take-out point to the Palace. By the 1950’s, however, a 60′ chute made of telephone poles with a ramp laid across the top facilitated sliding the blocks to the palace location on the shore of Lake Flower.

    Years ago, the construction of hard-packed snow ramps provided a slope to the top of the walls so blocks could be pushed up and into place. Much of the manual labor has now been taken over by the use of log loaders, cranes, excavators with claws attached and tractors and front loaders.

    Today, with the use of modern equipment, lifting blocks to the top of the walls has become an easier job. Once the blocks are up there, however, the work of placing them has changed little. “High-ice” workers standing on top of narrow walls at a height of 30′ or more must maintain their footing while receiving the 400 pound blocks and sliding them into position. They still use traditional antique ice shavers to do this. Shavers look a bit like slender combs with long-handles.

    Other jobs which continue to require the same hard labor as over a hundred years ago include making the final cut through the ice to free each block. While gasoline powered saws are employed to make the initial deep ice cuts (See a video about the ice saw here), the final ones releasing each block are still made manually with antique ice saws. Once free, the blocks must be pushed, again manually using antique pikes or peaveys, down a channel to the shore. Folks must still mix slush, the mortar holding the palace together, by filling endless numbers of buckets with water, pounding in snow, carrying them to the palace walls and applying the mix with rubber gloved hands that quickly become cold and sometimes wet.

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