Then and Now: Petey the Ice Man

“Petey the Ice Man’s” house in 1890, and how it looks today.

The Alfred “Pete” Peterson House, a house built in the 1890s by Swedish immigrant Alfred “Pete” Peterson, has an interesting history. It’s located at the southwest corner of E. Simpson Street and Gough Avenue. In the old photo, that’s Pete at the left, standing at the top of the stairs under the porch roof.

The Victorian detailing — latticework on the roof and scroll detailing on the porch — were not easy to come by in the early 1890s. The ability to buy pre-made building products was new in that the railroad had just installed a spur from Louisville & started servicing the coal mines. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that milled lumber and Victorian trim detailing started being stocked at the local lumber yard. So it’s likely that Peterson crafted those products himself.

Pete Peterson

A common narrative among early Lafayette residents, revealed in oral histories in repositories at the Miners Museum, the Lafayette Public Library and the Boulder Carnegie Library, is the pure joy kids experienced on hot summer days when Petey the Ice Man made his way through Lafayette neighborhoods.

Prior to the era of freon refrigeration, every household had an icebox for cold storage that was dependent on, well, ice. From about 1890 to the early 1940s, Peterson froze water in his ice pond during the winter, harvested it, stored it in an icehouse, then delivered ice blocks door-to-door during the summer. He delivered ice to Lafayette, Louisville, Erie and to the mining camps surrounding Lafayette.

Kids swarmed the street for bits of shaved ice as Peterson made deliveries during the boiling hot days of July. It was a rare treat and provided by Peterson free of charge.

Pete Peterson’s ornate house at 850 W. Baseline Road in Lafayette. The structure burned down in the 1960s.

Peterson became wealthy from his ice delivery business. So much so that he moved his family from his Old Town house to a luxurious 3,000 sq. ft. home that he built in 1904 along West Baseline Road where Cellar West Artisan Ales is located today. It was probably the grandest house that Lafayette has every seen, with loads of Victorian embellishments. Numerous social events were hosted at the house, and the Peterson’s overseas Scandinavian friends often stayed at the house. Just south of there, behind Petersen’s house, was the ice pond and icehouse. Sadly, the large Peterson house on Baseline Road burned down in the 1960s.

The 1890s photo is courtesy of the Lafayette Historical Society and is part of the Lafayette Public Library’s digital collection.