Home » Hundreds of years of icy fun in Frederick

Hundreds of years of icy fun in Frederick

by Ana Eastep

Jacob Englebrecht, Frederick city diarist, mayor, tailor and town observer noted the following in his journal during the winter of 1875:

“We have had very severe weather, plenty of ice. All the ice-houses are filled and now, if anything, the ice is still better. The thermometer has been down one morning to 10 degrees below zero in our city. Plenty of skating on the pavements for the boys. Friday, February 5, 1875, 8 p.m.” 

About 145 years later, Frederick residents still find ways to venture out and enjoy the fun of the winter season.  Frederick County offers winter recreation at Pinecliff Park with sledding and ice skating, dependent on weather conditions, and nearby Ski Liberty, located in Fairfield, Pa., about 5 miles from Emmitsburg, boasts skiing, snowboarding and more. 

Through the years, many Frederick residents have found creative ways close to home to make the most of a snow day. In the 1950s and 1960s, Frederick News Post photographer Frank J. Keefer captured winter memories made by children and adults who lived near Baker Park. Culler Lake was used as an ice-skating rink, and Freedom Lane Hill near West College Terrace was used as a sled course.

Longtime Frederick resident Helen Gregory fondly remembers skating on Culler Lake in Baker Park. While attending school at nearby Frederick High School in the late 1960s she said, “We would skate when we could, as part of our physical education class.” She remembered the ice skating as being fun for young and old alike. “The boathouse would be open and that is where we would put on our skates. There was a big fire in the fireplace, and one could even buy hot chocolate,” Gregory recalled. Skating on Culler Lake ceased in later years due to safety concerns.

During his days of photojournalism, Keefer also captured winter life on a farm in the 1950s. The photo in the Historical Society’s collection shows a horse-drawn sleigh pulling five bundled, smiling guests while two people ride and guide the horse.

Today with more efficient snow-clearing equipment and a faster pace of life than perhaps in the past, it is still fun to slow down, bundle up and take in a snow day in Frederick County, and think about our place in history and what has come before and what is yet to come. 

On Jan. 18, 1840, about 175 years ago, Frederick City diarist Jacob Englebrecht was observing a frozen wonderland at 1 o’clock in the afternoon when he wrote, “The weather for the last 17 days has been intensely cold. Our hydrant has been frozen (from cellar to kitchen) since the second instant. The creek next to our yard has been frozen over for several days and the boys today are skating and sliding on it in fine style.”

For more information on how Frederick residents lived through the years visit the Museum of Frederick County History at 24 E. Church St., Frederick. The Historical Society of Frederick County, which operates the Museum of Frederick County, The Frederick County Archives and Research Center and the Roger Brooke Taney House, is a private, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the county’s history. For more information about this and other upcoming Historical Society programs, visit FredCoHistory on Facebook and Twitter or www.frederickhistory.org.

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