When the cakes approach the storage-houses they enter the top of a great wooden tower, in which the runways form a huge spiral. Down this they slide with diminished velocity, and may be switched off at any desired level directly into the houses.
In good seasons a considerable quantity of ice is usually "stacked"; that is, piled up in great heaps outside of the houses and covered up with hay or straw. This ice is shipped early in the season, and the housed stock saved for later use. Sometimes a considerable quantity of ice is carried over from one year to another, and serves as an insurance against bad seasons. When winter is coming on and navigation liable to close on the river, all the available boats and barges are filled with ice and sent down stream, and from this stock the early winter deliveries are made. When this is exhausted, the supply may be drawn from the houses which are in communication with the city by rail, or the ice may be cut near these houses, put into the cars, and forwarded directly.
The insurance of ice-houses against fire, and in many regions against wind, is an important matter. For, singularly enough, the destruction of these buildings by fire is of such frequent occurrence that the insurance rates are quite high. They seem to be favorite playthings of the lightning, and it is probable that the shelter which the lee and sunny sides of these large and often isolated structures afford to that most disgusting combination of man, brute, and devil, the modern tramp, would account for a considerable number of ice-house fires.
The ice used in New York is largely brought to town in barges or canal-boats, though a considerable quantity, notably that called Croton Lake ice, from Ice Pond and Tuckahoe, comes in by rail. The ice barge, so familiar an object upon the river, is a singular, awkward craft, with a great square house upon the deck, with slender derricks in line fore and aft, and a small windmill at one end for pumping out the water as it accumulates from the melting of the ice. The New York ice-dealers are greatly favored by the extensive water-front of the city, which enables them to almost entirely dispense with expensive storehouses in town, the ice being for the most part loaded from the barges directly into the delivery-wagons.
The delivery of ice in New York is largely controlled by the companies which harvest it, by whom drivers are employed to supply their customers. There are other concerns which make contracts for ice on the large scale from the harvesters, and sell and deliver to their own customers. But there is still a large number of men called "bushwhackers" and "guerrillas," who work up custom in various sections of the town, and get their ice where they can from the regular dealers.
We are all familiar with the appearance of the ice-wagon, heavy and usually clumsily built, a slight tilt of the body forward, painted with any of the colors of the rainbow, or more commonly with colors which the rainbow would blush to acknowledge, and adorned with