Dairy & Ice House

The dairy was a "processing house" where milk from the dairy herd was made into butter. Historically, approximately 4,000 pounds of butter was churned at Fort William and used for several different purposes. When the voyageurs arrived at the Rendezvous, they were given a regale consisting of "a mug of brandy, a four pound loaf of white bread, and half a pound of butter." Butter was also available in the Cantine in the main square. In the Great Hall, very large quantities of butter were used for the meals of the partners, clerks, guides, and interpreters.

If the butter was to be stored away for the voyageurs, it was often salted to help it keep longer. Since salt was not commercially produced in Canada until 1806,it is believed that the salt used at Fort William came from England. Even after salt production began in Canada, many people still preferred salt that was imported from England.

Gentlemen preferred fresh, unsalted butter so they could add their own amount of salt to suit their particular tastes. It does not appear that cheese was made in the Fort William dairy. It was imported for the gentlemen since it was not quite as perishable as the butter.

The walls of the dairy are chinked. There are five windows to provide the light and air so necessary for dairy work. In winter, a fire is needed to prevent the milk from freezing and to keep the cream warm enough to churn.

The purpose of the icehouse was to preserve fresh meat in the summer. Dairy products may also have been cooled there. In the early nineteenth century, the icehouse provided one of the few means of refrigeration. Caveau or cavreaux, small caverns or root cellars dug into the ground were also quite cool and were used at Fort William in order to preserve vegetables over the winter. The walls of the icehouse are laid with mortar, and the walls and ceiling are carefully insulated.