A glistening history of the Ice Castle

Ice Castle 2018 by Sharon Subel-Seegert

Much to the delight of those visiting Eagle River, the 2018 Ice Castle continues to sparkle in the sunlight and under the lights at night.

This year’s majestic edifice towers 30’, and is the backdrop for countless pictures and videos. Last year, the Ice Castle only lived for eight days thanks to a radical warm up. It had to be dismantled for safety reasons.

This year the castle has been reinforced by many below-zero days and looks to be healthy until mid-February when it is scheduled to come down. As fickle as Mother Nature can be, we thought a brief history about this crystalline structure might be in order.

The original Ice Castle was constructed in 1933 as part of the “King Winter” festival, according to the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce history about the castles.

It was constructed by Ed Bandow and William Radue who cut the ice out of Silver Lake and built it on the railroad property across from the Moccasin Shop.

The second Ice Castle Was built in the winter of 1935-36 and construction of the 250-block structure was lead by Louis Behlow, It then became an annual event and design for the project was done by Chicago architect, F.W. Janusch, and ice was provided by Charles Hanke until 1942.

Construction halted with the start of WWII and resumed again in 1948 when Hanke built the first post-war castle. He continued to build the Ice Castles until 1980 when his grandson, Jack Thomas, took over.

In the 50s and 60s, the Eagle River Lions Club took charge of building the castles. When their focus shifted to running the World Championship Snowmobile Derby in the mid-1980s, the Eagle River Area’s Volunteer Fire Department and Assistant Fire Chief Jack Thomas stepped forward. Today the Fire Department takes the lead and works with community volunteers to create the winter’s icy regal structure.

In 1997, 93 colored floodlights were added and the Ice Castle continues to gleam at night at the depot location in downtown Eagle River. This year, It took the Fire Department personnel and community volunteers more than 700 hours and 2,100 carefully engineered ice blocks The castle shimmers at night in a revolving colored light show.

Night or day, it is a visual delight. Bring your camera of choice and capture a regal winter memory with friends and family!

Ice Castle 1938 from Ice Castle Facebook


1940 Ice Castle

1942 Victory Ice Monument


Ice Castle 1957


2018 Ice Castle at night


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