Most of What the Modern World Knows about Cold Storage Originated in Bristol

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Given the special handling required by COVID-19 vaccines, cold storage is now a hot topic. But few know that the industry was redefined forever in 1867 in Bristol, writes Ann Marie Linnabery of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (New York).

In those pre-refrigerator days, Nathan Hellings, a produce dealer, bought apples from upstate New York. But he needed a way to keep them from spoiling that didn’t rely on root cellars, whose dampness caused premature rot.

He built a cold storage house that turned established methods upside-down. Literally. 

Hellings’ design called for the ice to be stored above the main floor rather than in it or below it. He built an upper floor 13 feet above his stock, covered it in sawdust and added an incline to drain away melt-off. The arrangement kept fruit at a crisp, dry 36 degrees. 

“It was estimated that this cold storage could hold up to 10,000 barrels containing 200 to 300 apples, depending on the size of the barrels and the size of the apples,” Linnabery wrote.  

Hellings’ Bristol, Pa., facility burned down in 1900, but his methodology lived on. 

Read more about Bucks County’s contributions to cold storage here

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