Al Bruno’s Smithfield Remembered – the ice house at Sebille’s Pond

By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.

This article is the first in an occasional series about Smithfield locations that have either been forgotten by time or are no longer remembered for what they once represented. The locations are selected from a list compiled by former Smithfield Building Inspector Al Bruno. Bruno was featured in the January edition of The Smithfield Times.

Before Route 295 was constructed, Sebille Road intersected Route 44 in the approximate location where the current northbound exit ramp from the freeway carries traffic to the westbound lanes of 44. Today there is a small retention basin in the crook of the ramp. It is less than half of a pond which before the highway was built filled the hollow alongside the narrow local road. The Sebille homestead, a yellow edifice that dated back possibly to colonial times, sat on a knoll above the pond.

Nearby and still standing when Al Bruno, 85, was a young man was a large icehouse. In the days before refrigeration the only way to preserve ice and make it last from the winter into the hot weather months was to harvest it in large blocks from accessible bodies of water. Using specially designed cross cut saws and ice hooks, workers would cut sizeable slabs of ice free and skid them onto horse drawn sleds. They would then stack them in large, roughly built wood frame structures covered in black tar paper.

The ice blocks would be separated in layers and insulated with sawdust and straw. Entirely closed in with few if any windows in order to maintain the cold, these unusual buildings were large and foreboding in appearance. Bruno estimates that the one on Sebille Road stood two and a half to three stories high. “I would guess it was 125 feet long by 40 feet wide,” he surmises. Like many of its type, the Sebille Road icehouse succumbed to fire sometime in the 1950s-60s. Bruno can’t recall the date, but he recalls fighting the fire as a member of the Georgiaville Volunteer Fire Company. Sebille Road now divides from Dean Avenue near Old County Road and diverges left at the intersection of Mountaindale Road. It dead ends where the other section of the pond still remains. There, a large parking lot for fishermen occupies part of the spot where the ice house stood.