Ice Palaces

In North America, Montreal was the first great city to create an Ice Palace. However when a smallpox epidemic broke out in Montreal in 1885, St. Paul leaders moved quickly to build a palace here in hopes to attract tourism to St. Paul.

To date, the St. Paul Winter Carnival has built 36 Ice Palaces, all of different shapes and sizes. Below are some of the most memorable designs.

2004

The 2004 Winter Carnival Ice Palace opened to the public on Jan. 22, 2004. (Pioneer Press File)

Location: Cleveland Circle across from the XCel Energy Center.
Designed by: SLL/Leo A Daly Architects & Engineers of Minneapolis.
Material: 25,000 Ice blocks.
Size: Height 75 feet; Length 250 feet.

This was the first Ice Palace since 1941 that the public was able to walk through. This palace coincided with the 2004 National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star Game. Photo courtesy of  the Pioneer Press.

Ice Palace Fun Fact: Many people ask if it is a Palace or a Castle?  Since a Palace is looked upon as a home to royalty, we have always used the word Palace vs. Castle as many people associate the word castle as a negative, like Dracula’s Castle.

1992

Location: Harriet Island.
Designed by: Rust Architects.
Construction: By 100 construction workers from 29 local unions for half wages.
Material: 20,000 blocks of ice measuring 42 x 22 x 20 inches from Green Lake near Spicer, Minnesota.
Size: Height 166 feet; Length 220 feet; Width 170 feet.

Photo courtesy of the Pioneer Press

1988

Location: Harriet Island.
Designed by: Rust Architects.
Construction: Austin P. Keller, contractor.
Material: Ice blocks.
Size: Height 40 feet; Width 100 feet.

This is the year that Vulcan had his volcano and King Boreas had his Ice Palace on Harriet Island. Vulcans came out of the top of his volcano several times a day. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1986

Location: Phalen Park Picnic Island
Designed by: Ellerbe Architect & Design Association
Construction: Built by 750 volunteers from the Minnesota Building Construction Trade Unions. Austin P. Keller Construction Co. General Contractor.
Material: 10,000 42 x 24 x 23 inch ice blocks from Lake Phalen.
Cost: $200,000 over and above donated labor.
Size: Height 128 feet, 9 inches; Length 90 feet; Width 90 feet.

This 1986 Palace was built for the 100th Anniversary of the Winter Carnival. It was the tallest of Ice Palace built to this time. It was the first palace illuminated by a computerized lighting system.

In 1987, Charlie Hall – King Boreas XLVII, commissioned this monument entitled “Labor of Love” to commemorate the 1986 Ice Palace in Phalen Park at the location of the Palace. It provides viewers a complete record of all of the Ice Palace’s statistics, including the names of over 1,000 volunteers from unions, corporate and private citizens who were part of making the ’86 Ice Palace happen.

1976

Location: 7th and Minnesota streets in downtown Saint Paul.
Designed by: Greg Rafferty and Jeri Zuber.
Construction: Sheehy Construction.
Material: Manufactured 12 x 24 x 54 inch ice blocks.
Size: Height 40 feet; Length 24 feet; Width 54 feet.

Jeri Zuber and Greig Rafferty won the American Bicentennial ice palace design competition sponsored by the Minnesota Society of Architects with this design. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

 

1975

Location: Harriet Island.
Designed by: Robert A. Olsen.
Construction: Robert Olsen and 8 volunteers.
Material: 1600 – 1 foot x 3 feet x 4 feet manufactured ice blocks.
Cost: $13,000.
Size: Height 36 feet; Length 100 feet; Width 42 feet.

Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1950

Location: Victory Park. 4th Street & Wabasha Streets downtown Saint Paul.
Material: Ice blocks
Size: Height 25 feet; Width 60 feet.

1949

Location: Victory Square, that was located on the corner of 4th Street and Wabasha.
Material: Ice blocks around wood frame pavillion.
Size: Height 20 feet; Length 40 feet; Width 40 feet.

A 20 foot high ice wall was on the north side of the pavillion. A frame roof covered with white plastic material giving an icy covering look. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1948

Location: Como Park Pavillion
Material: Ice blocks
Size:  Height 15 feet; Length 200 feet.

A 200 foot ice block wall with a tower on each end and a throne for the King and Queen in the center. This was built in front of the lakeside pavillion at Lake Como. Icicles were hung from the roof of the pavillion to look like part of the wall. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1947

Location: Highland Park Golf Course
Designed by: C.W. Wiginton Saint Paul city architect
Material: Ice blocks
Size: Proposed size: Height 75 feet; Length 210 feet.

The palace was only one-third completed and melted due to warm weather. The Vulcans stormed the ruins with fireworks and a P51 Mustang fighter plane passed overhead. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1942

Location: Highland Park Golf Course
Designed by: C.W. Wiginton Saint Paul city architect
Material: Ice blocks
Size: Proposed size: Height 80 feet; Length 170 feet.

Due to warm weather, the palace started to melt. A storming of the palace was planned and it was destroyed before it was completed. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1941

Location: Como Park
Designed by:  C.W. Wiginton Saint Paul city architect.
Construction: Built by 270 WPA workers.
Material: 22,000 ice blocks from McCarron’s Lake. Each block measured 31 x 22 x 16 inches and weighed 350 pounds.
Size: Height 80 feet; Length 123 feet; Width 123 feet. Diagonal axis 165 feet.

The Federal Tower had a US Post Office in it. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1940

Location: Como Park.
Designed by: C.W. Wiginton Saint Paul city architect.
Construction: 40 to 60 WPA builders worked around the clock for two weeks.
Material: Ice blocks
Size: Height 75 feet; Length 150 feet; Width 142 feet.
Cost: WPA grant of $14,000

The Federal Tower, one of four towers surrounding the Throne Tower had a US Post Office in it. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1939

Location: Como Park.
Designed by: Milton Bergstedt.
Construction: Construction by 200 youths in three weeks.
Material: 4,000 tons of ice blocks.
Size:  Height 80 feet; Length 240 feet; Width 35 feet.

The Ice Palace was designed as an Arabian Nights Palace. It was built on the shore of Lake Elmo. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1938

 

Location: Dayton’s Bluff.
Construction: Built in one week.
Material: Ice blocks
Size: 60 Foot semicircular disk.

A “Windsor Castle” design was planned for the 1938 Ice Palace. This castle was to be 205 x 300 feet and 60 feet high. Due to high temperatures, this was not built. A 60 foot facade was built in one week to replace the original plan.

1937

 

Location: Front of State Capital.
Designed by: C.A. Bassford & C.W. Wigington.
Construction: By 200 WPA workers.
Material: 30,000 Ice Blocks
Size: Height 60 feet; Length 193 feet; Width 86 feet.

1930

Location: Dunning Field
Designed by: Ellerbe Becket Inc.
Material: Ice blocks

The Midway Club held a Winter Carnival in 1930. An Ice Palace was built with the back of the Midway Chamber of Commerce. This was the throne for the King and Queen of the Midway Carnival. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1917

Location: Rice Park and Town and Country Club.
Material: Ice blocks

There were two Ice Palaces in 1917. The first was shaped like a Greek cross and located in Rice Park. There was a tower on each of the four arms of the cross and a gateway in each of the four sides leading into a courtyard. Inside the courtyard was a skating rink.

The second place was smaller and located at the Town and Country Club.

1916

Location: Harriet Island on the Mississippi River.

“Fort Karnival” was simple rectangular enclosure with a 12 foot high wall of ice surrounding an ice rink. The nearby carnival grounds included a ski jump, toboggan slide, hockey rink and other winter sport facilities. Photo courtesy of Bob Olsen.

1896

Location: Aurora Park
Designed by: Captain Wikinsop from Fort Snelling.
Construction: By Rheume & St. Pierre Contractors.
Material: Ice blocks
Size: Height 35 feet; Length 660 feet; Width 300 feet.

A January thaw left “Fort Karnival” uncompleted. It did have a restaurant, two 600 foot toboggan slides and Dakota Sioux Indian Village. The storming of “Fort Karnival” by the Fire King Coal and his men and fireworks were postponed due to a thunderstorm.

1889-1890

 

Location: The proposed location was on the west side of the Mississippi River near the Wabasha Street Bridge.
Designed by: Charles E. Joy, Saint Paul architect
Size: The proposed size was Height 165 feet; Length 369 feet; Width 360 feet.

The winter of 1889 and 1890 were unseasonably warm. Ice could not be cut from the rivers of lakes. Therefore the Carnival was canceled for those years.

1888

Location: Central Park was located between Cedar and Minnesota streets north of 13th street. Now a parking ramp for the State Capitol Complex.
Designed by: Charles E. Joy, Saint Paul architect.
Construction: By Rheume & St. Pierre Contractors. It took two months to build.
Material: 55,000 blocks of ice measuring 22 x 32 x 18 inches each from Lake Como.
Cost: $7,000
Size: Height 130 feet; Length 195 feet; Width 190 feet.

A wedding was conducted in this Ice Palace with 6,000 people in attendance.

1887

The 1887 Ice Palace followed with over 35,000 blocks of ice.
Location: Central Park was located between Cedar and Minnesota streets north of 13th street. Now a parking ramp for the State Capital Complex.
Designed by: Charles E. Joy, Saint Paul architect.
Material: Ice blocks were 24 x 72 inches in length and 12 x 18 inches thick.
Size: Height 140 feet; Length 217 feet; Width 194 feet.

The Ice Palace was lighted at night by 200 electric lights.

1886

Location: Central Park was located between Cedar and Minnesota streets north of 13th street. Now a parking ramp for the State Capitol Complex.
Designed by: A.C. Hutchison, architect of Montreal ice places.
Construction: By Brodie Construction Co. It took three weeks and 200 men to build the palace.
Material: Over 25,000 blocks of ice from The Mississippi River and Lake Como. Each block measured 22 x 52 x18 inches.
Size: Height 106 feet; Length 186 feet; Width 154 Feet.
Cost: $5,210

The 1886 was the first year for an Ice Palace in Saint Paul. It was illuminated at night with electric lights using color globes. This was one of the first buildings in Saint Paul to have electric lighting.