EAGLE RIVER ICE CASTLE
AN EAGLE RIVER TRADITION
Eagle River has proudly displayed some of the most amazing frozen works of art since the early 1930’s. Originally, Charles Hanke (Fire Chief 1942 – 1959) owned the local icehouse, and F.W. Janusch from Eagle River and Chicago created designs which members of the community then transformed into the Eagle River Ice Castle.
The ice castles were discontinued during World War II and then started again shortly after the end of the war. During the 1950s and through the 1960s the Eagle River Lions Club spearheaded the ice castles’ construction with the fire chief, Charles Hanke, designing the castles for the club. As the Lion’s Eagle River Snowmobile Derby grew, the Lion’s Club gave up on the ice castle project due to the lack of time and manpower. A few attempts were undertaken in the 1970s to again construct an ice castles but the task was too large and the attempts came to quick end.
In 1987 the Eagle River Fire Chief, Jack Thomas, was approached to resurrect the ice castle project. Since then the fire department has constructed the ice castles using much of the same ice equipment used during the first ice harvests (ice saw, hand saws and scrapers). Ice and weather conditions determine if an ice castle can be built. Ice needs to be between 12 – 14 inches thick by the end of December. In a good year, approximately 3,000 blocks measuring 10” X 20” are cut out of Silver Lake and transported by pickup trucks to the construction site near the historic Rail Road Depot. Construction takes a good three days with finishing touches completed throughout the first week. Lights are placed inside making a spectacular sight at night.
Since 1987 Jack Thomas, grandson of Charles Hanke, has designed the ice castles keeping a family and fire department tradition alive. The fire department and community takes great pride in their beautiful creations. The annual Eagle River Ice Castle attracts visitors from around the country.
This is the first step in the construction process. We cut the ice to uniform sizes. We still use this saw today!
Our most recent project was completed in January of 2017 after a three year stretch without enough ice for construction.
ICE REMOVAL, DAY 2
On the second day of construction we remove the ice blocks from the lake.
CONSTRUCTION, DAY 3
On day three we shave all the blocks to a uniform height and build the foundation for the castle.
CONSTRUCTION, DAY 4
On day four we finish a majority of the construction.
FINISHING TOUCHES, DAY 5
On day five we put the lights inside the castle and spruce up the outside with decorations.
This is the earliest image we have of the first ice castles
More images of the original castes
In the 90's the weather permitted us to build an Ice Castle seven years in a row.
Some images of castles since we moved the ice castle to it current location.