Ice Cellars, ice wells, ice pits or ice mounds were used to store ice or snow in the winter for use during the summer. This was a rather common use for cellars before the invention of refrigerators. Cellars already have a temperature of 8 °C without cooling, in addition they are reasonably well insulated by the surrounding rock. If the cellars were close to the surface, they were usually additionally covered with earth, and they were often kept in the shade of trees, which reduced heating by solar radiation. And finally, they had a drainage system through which the melt water could run off. The use of circular or rectangular pits or wells was also very common. They had a kind of cupola with a door or gate that was opened to throw the ice in.
Ice cellars were used to store the ice itself, preferably in such large quantities that it would last until the next winter with freezing temperatures. And preferably in large blocks, broken ice was either poured over with cold water or crushed so finely that it froze back into a block. Some of them were additionally insulated with straw. They did not contain any other goods to be cooled with the ice. Nevertheless, many of them had adjacent rooms, which were cooled indirectly by the ice. They were used to allow produce with different cold temperature demands to be placed nearer to or farther from the ice.
Obviously it works only in areas where it freezes during winter, the natural ice has to come from somewhere. If there is a lake with a thick layer of ice, it is simple to just cut the ice with axes and saws. The so-called ice harvesting was backbreaking work. However, to get more ice and probably ice of better quality, drinking water from a well was pumped over a wooden gallows, called an ice gallows, to freeze it. When the ice was thick enough it was cut and stored in the cellar, and then the ice making process was repeated.
Nevertheless, there were also buildings which were packed with insulation, often straw or sawdust. They were called ice house or icehouse. The reason for this is simply that it is not always possible to build large cellars, or simply too expensive. In the past it was a lot of manual work and only possible if the rock was soft enough. Nevertheless showcaves.com lists only underground sights, so we list only ice cellars.
Ice cellars were often operated by the municipality or the local brewery. Since the 19th century there were companies which created ice and sold it during the summer. At that time, refrigerators were wooden boxes with a separate compartment for the ice, which also contained a collection container for the melted water. A coachman regularly delivered a fresh block of ice to customers. They were insulated with straw for transport. This continued even into the 1950s because many people did not yet own a refrigerator. The ice factories had a big refrigerating machine, in the beginning powered by a steam engine, and produced ice blocks for sale.
Breweries need huge amounts of ice for certain types of beer to cool it during fermentation and maturation. It had a longer shelf life when cooled. And it was easier to sell. Therefore, it was obvious that they not only supplied the citizens with beer, but also with ice.