Ice Castle

Ice Palaces at Montreal


Ice is hardly to be classed as a building material, save among the Innuits, but the ice palaces erected at Montreal, at the winter carnival during the last three years [1883-1885], show what can be accomplished with ice if the temperature is always below the freezing point of water.

The ice palace is erected in the Dominion Square, at Montreal, being built out of blocks of ice three feet four inches square and fifteen inches thick; sixteen thousand of these were used in this structure, which covers an elliptical area one hundred and sixty feet by one hundred and twenty feet. At each end are embattled towers thirty-eight feet high, and at the sides pairs of round towers extend to a height of forty-four feet. Arched entrances between these towers lead to the interior. The main tower at the centre of the palace reaches to a height of one hundred feet, and is connected to the other series of towers by walls.

When the blocks of ice are brought from the Lachine Canal and trimmed to dimension, a little water is poured over the bed of the block and at the interstices at the sides until securely frozen in place. The interior of the palace is illuminated with electric lights, and at the storming of the palace fireworks are thrown over the structure, both from within and from the square. The first ice palace built at Montreal in January, 1883, had a roof made of boughs which was rendered solid by water thrown upon them, but for the last two years no attempt has been made at a roof.

The ice decorations of this city for the carnival are not limited to the Palace, for in the Champ de Mars a structure, called from its Hindu origin "the Condora", is built from twelve thousand blocks of ice. In outline it is a stepped cone fifty feet in diameter, one hundred feet in height, and surmounted by a snow statue twenty-four feet in height, representing a Canadian with snow-shoes. In its construction the Condora is built of concentric walls increasing in height as the diameter decreases. It is approached from the interior, and during the times of celebration hundreds of the members of the snow shoe clubs can stand on the tiers encircling the Condora, and add to the brilliancy by torches and fireworks. The architect of the Condora is Theodore Daoust of Montreal.

The third ice structure is the colossal statue of a lion, modelled by Arthur Vincent, of Montreal, and situated in the Place d'Armes. The pedestal is twenty feet high and surrounded by four buttresses, the main portion being hollow and illuminated by electric lights, which impart a very fine effect at night. The lion was built up of snow and afterwards wetted, so that it is frozen into a hard mass. Many years ago a life-size statue of a lion was cut out of ice at Lubeck, by a German named Von Meinert. The only precedent of any similar ice palace is probably the one built on the banks of the Neva at St. Petersburg in 1740 for the empress Anne. This was a smaller structure, covering an area of fifty-six feet by eighteen feet, and measuring twenty-one feet to the top of the roof, but the published accounts of the elaboration of the ice ornaments suggest the possibility that:

Far and wide the tale was told,
Like a snowball, growing as it rolled.

It is alleged that the ice window-frames were colored to represent green marble, while the panes were formed of sheets of ice so thin as to form a perfect substitute
for glass. The palace was guarded by six cannon, with their carriages all of ice.

One-twelfth of the usual charge of powder -- not ice this time -- was used in this ordnance; and the penetration of the projectile was sufficient to pierce a two-inch board at sixty paces. An ice elephant with his mahout, and several dolphins, without their Proserpine, projected fountains of lighted naphtha to a height of twenty-four feet. Fireplaces and dining-tables, dressing-rooms and bath, are included in the schedule of furnishing, but when the account further states that the drawing-room contained a timepiece with wheels of ice, it seems as if the description was not limited to frozen truth.

... published in 1885

[Photograph: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-96850]