Construction workers hired to build ice palace

Masonry workers, crane operators and other construction workers were recently hired to help finish an unusual project — a castle made of 27,000 blocks of ice. Known in St. Paul, Minn., as the Ice Palace, the $1.5 million structure serves as the main attraction at the city’s annual Winter Carnival.

Kraus-Anderson Construction of St. Paul had to find additional workers in order to complete the giant structure in time. Work had been delayed because of the weather — it had not been cold enough for the lakes to freeze over. Construction was supposed to begin Dec. 15, but work was halted until ice blocks 1-foot deep could be cut from nearby Lake Phalen. A number of volunteers were waiting to help build the castle, but because it had to be finished quickly, the extra workers and equipment were brought in.

Approximately 16 unionized masons worked three daily shifts, while several crane operators worked to lift ice blocks on top of the five turrets. Although the added expense of the workers was not calculated into the cost of the palace, the festival’s board of directors plans to use any surplus money from the admission tickets toward the labor. Kraus-Anderson is doing the work pro-bono. Many of the original volunteers on the project were also construction workers.

Although the first ice palace was constructed in 1886, visitors to the festival haven’t been able to walk through the structure since 1941 because of safety concerns. This year, however, a volunteer team of 20 architects and engineers from SSL/Leo A. Daly firm worked to make the palace safe for visitors to tour. The castle contains eight thrones made of ice as well as a giant ice fountain. Lights within the palace’s turrets are part of the festival’s annual light show. The palace will be open to visitors until Feb. 7.