Angela's Pick of the Week - Antique Icebox

Hi everyone, Angela here with my Pick of The Week. I am going to warn you now, this one comes with a bit of a history lesson but its fun so I think you will like it. 

I chose the Antique IceBox that just came in. I have always loved these. We don't get them in the shop very often but when we do I get a little nostalgic. Growing up my grandparents had an antique oak icebox, like this one, in their sitting room. It was always filled with cookies and candy and snacks. I remember when my grandmother gave us the green light, my sisters and I would pull the antique lever and await what was on the other side. We were never disappointed. It was a beautiful piece and in great condition, just like this one. 

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I love how the inside has so much storage and character. The door was so thick and the latches were so well made. These babies really aren't just a pretty face. I have seen them converted into bars and wine storage with a wine rack insert, shelves added for kitchen storage such as pots, pans, platters, etc., a tool chest with hanging racks screwed into the tin, and more.   

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Ok, honestly this one is a little messy for my neat-freak nature but you get the idea, you could even add in shelves with the wine glass hangers so you can hang glasses on the longer side. Ohhhhhhh, that would be great for entertaining - a one stop drink shop.
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Iceboxes have been kicking around since before the turn of the century. Check out this great ad for a 6 door McCray from the 1900's. Now that is luxury.
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WARNING, here comes that history lesson I warned you about...

After reading up a bit I learned a bunch of things I never knew like between the walls of tin and the wood frame, they were packed with cork, sawdust, straw or sometimes even dried seaweed for insulation. Really, dried seaweed? Wouldn't it smell? "Honey I think somethings rotten?" "No, its just the seaweed lined walls on our icebox!"

Here is some not-so-technical stuff on how it kept things cool: The ice block was delivered by the iceman (you know, the guy with the giant ice tongs carrying a huge ice block on his back, ya, him) and put in the upper left side. Cold air then circulated on the inside to keep things cool. A drip pan, which we often get in the shop (usually enamelware) was placed under the bottom and needed to be changed daily. What a task, I am sure - but early iceboxes were usually reserved for the very wealthy, so the owners were probably not the ones emptying the pan anyway. 

Where did the ice come from you ask? Great question. It was harvested in the winter from frozen lakes and snow packed areas.  Whew, could you imaging sawing a frozen lake!

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The ice was kept in ice houses and delivered by a horse drawn carriage. In the summer, kids would get ice chips as a cool treat from the iceman. Maybe that is where the idea for the ice cream truck came from, gotta love that!

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Here are examples of the very studly (or not-so-studly) ice delivery men I referred to earlier:

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Pretty hot huh ladies??? Something that made me laugh when searching for images was that some of the higher end models of iceboxes had a rear door called an "outside icing feature" that would open outside the house. It was also called "the jealous husband door." It not only kept the iceman from tracking mud and dirt into your home, it also kept kept him from coming into the house when hubby was at work. 

Something makes me think that the idea for this special door came from the ice delivery man above. He just has that look don't ya think??? 

The ad below is for a McCray with an "outside icing feature" :

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Ok, enough of my history lesson, here are some redo ideas for the icebox we have in stock (although I personally think it is gorgeous just as is). 

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I love the exterior oak as is, so painting the inside a bold color like this green (which looks a lot like Antibes Chalk Paint™) is a grand plan. 

If you are not a old oak fan like I am, you could try painting the exterior. I think it really modernizes the piece. I prefer it with unpainted hardware but you be the judge. 

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The other thing worth noting (and driving me crazy), which I have never seen on an icebox before, is the hole in the top of the one we have at the store. At first I thought maybe it was added later, but the hole is trimmed in matching oak so that is unlikely. I then thought maybe it was for some sort of water cooler, or an opening to put ice pieces in and out, or for an ice cream maker insert.... I could not figure it out. It was strange because it opened to where the ice block would sit and inevitably would let out all the cool air generated from the block if the hole was left unplugged.

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I did a bunch of research to try and find its purpose and the only thing that came close was that it possibly had been converted to a Monitor Top like the popular GE's of the 1930's. But that just didn't add up, there was no electrical added and the guts were still in tact as they should be.

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So then I moved on, thinking it was for a gauge like the one below. This also, however, is uncharacteristic for the date of the icebox. 
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I also thought it could be for water, but there was no spigot or even evidence of one.
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So in the end, my Pick of the Week is the beautiful antique icebox listed currently for $425 and my dilemma of the week is "WHAT IS THAT HOLE FOR?" It is driving me nuts that I cannot figure it out. Please help me and leave your comments below on what YOU think it is! I would truly LOVE to hear what you think.

~Angela for Phantastic Phinds

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  1. Dear Ladies,
    I love that page. I was looking forward an ice chest and you helped me a lot.
    Regarding the round hole on the top of the Ice chest :it is the place for a glass water bottle.
    If you google "Iceland Ice Box with glass water bottle cooler" , you will find it easily.

  2. I have acquired an ice box with the hole in the has a porcelain container with a small hole in the bottom. Inside the Icebox there are pipes that are connected and run in an S pattern along the left side of icebox. At the end of this S shaped pipes there is a faucet on the outside. The faucet is in between the two doors on the left. I see Raphael's comment, but would those pipes be fit for drinking water to come out? Maybe that is the way they did get cold water back then. I'd be happy to post a picture if you are interested. You can respond to


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