Gadsby's Tavern & Ice Well, Alexandria, Slideshow

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    The Ice Well

A testiment to builder John Wise and tavernkeeper John Gadsby's commercially enterprising spirit is this ice well, adjacent to the tavern. The ability to serve the most fashionable iced refreshments year round, including ice cream, is just one example of the amenities offered by Gadsby. Popular ice cream flavors included vanilla, oyster, and parmesan.
   A ready supply of ice was harvested from local rivers during the coldest winter months and stored in the ice well, built beneath the corner of Royal and Cameron Streets during the City Tavern’s 1792 construction.
   Of commercial size, this urban ice well measures 17 feet in diameter and 11 feet deep at the lowest excavation point.  As much as 68 tons of ice were covered with straw and sawdust to preserve it through the summer months.
   In June of 1805, John Gadsby’s ice supply was plentiful enough to offer ice to the public, at 8 cents per pound. In modern terms, a full ice well would put the value of Gadsby's ice supply today at about $40,000.
   In Alexandria, many homes had interior pits to store small quantities of ice for perishable foods.