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AttractionsGlacières de Sylans

The Glacières de Sylans - where Parisians got their ice 'autrefois'

In 1864 Joachim Moinat had the idea to use ice from the Lac de Sylans in the Jura Mountains for his Café du Paradis in Nantua. Moinat soon bought the water rights from the villages of Neyrolles and Poizat and late in 1864 sold the Café du Paradis to work full time on his new ice business - Glacières de Sylans. At first Moinat supplied local business via horse drawn carriage.

In 1865 Moinat built a wood cabin for his ice business. As business grew over time, in1875 another wood structure was built in the same location, this time with insulated walls. By 1879 some 300 workers were employed at Glacières de Sylans, working two shifts. In 1882 the Haut-Bugey rail line opened. This offered rail access to Paris along with Geneva, Lyon, Marseille and Toulon. Ice from the Glacières de Sylans even made it all the way to Alger.

In 1885 Moinat sold Glacières de Sylans to the Société des Glaciéres de Paris. Between 1890 and 1910 the Société built stone structures, some of which you can visit today. These structures allowed ice to be stored for up to one year. In terms of melt, it's estimated that in a 10 ton shipment sent to Paris, 8 tons reached there.

The ice harvest was from December to April, and many of the workers were local farmers working a second job. The harvesters would work as far as possible from Glacières de Sylans back to the shore. They would create a canal back to the ice warehouses and blocks of ice would be floated in. All the ice on the lake was harvested.

At its peak, the Glacières de Sylans was delivering 50 train cars a day to its customers in Paris and other cities, producing about 300,000 tons of ice a year. The Glacières de Sylans closed in 1917 and in 1924 the site was returned to the villages of Neyrolles and Poizat. The site was left in ruins until 2007, when a restoration project was started.

Today the Glacières de Sylans is open year round and can be visited for free via self guided tours. The site offers nice views of the Lac de Sylans and Jura Mountains. There is a path with educational markers that rings one of the surviving buildings on the lakefront.

The Glacières de Sylans is just off the A40 Autoroute, exit 9 Nantua les Neyrolles. There is a nice view of the Lac de Sylans from the rest area Le Lac - Aire de repos du Lac (westbound side).

Glacières de Sylans in operation.

First wood buildings.

Ice harvest.

Glacières de Sylans in 2014.

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