By Vicki Smith
This article was originally published on April 17, 2018.
Ice harvesting is a forgotten history that happened right here in Port Huron. A history that needs to be shared with all – especially our children and students.
Founded by Norman F. “Mickey” and Agnes Knowlton, the purpose of Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America was to preserve the history of natural ice harvesting, storing, use and delivery during 1800 to 1930s. In its day, ice harvesting was one of the largest industries in the United States. Today, the museum has one of the largest collections of ice tools and other related implements in all of the U.S.
Mickey was born in 1919 and Agnus in 1920. Mickey started out as a milkman after WWII. He delivered milk for local dairies asking families if they’d like milk delivery service. Selling milk door to door was big back then since families usually only had one car. He also delivered for Twin Pines Farm Dairy later on and worked well into his mid-60s. That’s when big grocery stores became popular and selling milk for much less than he could buy it for.
A friend of Mickey’s sold him two small ice machines and Mickey started making and selling ice in his garage. He named his new company, Party Time Ice.
As time went by Mickey needed more space so he bought and built an ice plant on Yeager Street in Port Huron Township. Over time, Party Time Ice grew all over Michigan; they had three manufacturing plants and many warehouses.
During his time delivering milk to homes he was also busy collecting milk bottles and other memorabilia. His ice manufacturing interest also led to collecting anything ice related; ice tools used in ice harvesting right here in our lakes, rivers, and ponds. Agnus was also a collector. Her love of beautiful vintage dolls and buggies can be seen in the museum today.
They soon ran out of room to store these treasures prompting Mickey to build a pole barn next to the ice plant. On October 25, 1987, his museum opened to the public for all to enjoy.
In the year 2000, the museum became a non-profit 501c 3 charitable foundation. And in 2009 he moved the museum to a larger facility at 317 Grand River Avenue in Port Huron where it still resides today. Currently their winter hours are Saturdays from October – May 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Their summer hours will begin in June where they’ll be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Group Tours of 8+ are available all year long. Schools groups are welcome! Please call (810) 987-5441 for more information and be sure to leave a detailed message.
I have been the manager of Knowlton’s Ice Museum for almost three years. I have lived in Port Huron all of my life and grew up with the Knowlton family. I have two adult children and two grandchildren. I belong to an antique tractor club in Croswell, MI where I’ve shown my 1949 8n Ford tractor in local parades. I love visiting the St. Clair river with my little dog and a good book for the afternoon. Quilting is a passion when I have them time. I truly enjoy sharing the ice harvesting history in our area; it brings back memories for so many people.
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