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Eagle River Ice Castle


  • We are being told that the Ice Castle is starting to deteriorate due to the warm weather and rain.

  • It looks like the Castle will be most likely taken down early next week. – Monday or Tuesday.

  • We would like to again recognize and give a great big “Thank You” to the Eagle River Area Volunteer Fire Department and the many volunteers from our community for all your time and hard work in building the ice castle. It sure was great to see this very special Eagle River icon back up after being missed over the last two years.

  • A special thank you tas well to all the area businesses that provided food and drink for all the creators of the ice castle. I know they greatly appreciated your generosity.

  • Our Ice Castle is truly a community project that we hope you enjoyed this year.


Each winter, volunteers headed by the area firefighters, put in more than 700 “man hours” to cut nearly 3000 12-inch-thick ice blocks from a local lake, haul them to downtown Eagle River, Wisconsin, and build a huge ice castle. Eagle River’s Ice Castle has become a popular attraction for motorists, snowmobilers, locals and visitors, as dozens of people stop each day to photograph the 20-foot high structure along Highway 45 North.

The ice palace is a cool facade that is at once transparent and opaque, depending on the light, and it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, different each year. The ice castle in Eagle River is constructed annually, weather permitting, on the weekend closest to New Years, by the Eagle River Area’s Volunteer Fire Department.

The first ice castle began as an addition to the annual “King Winter” festival in 1933. The project was led by Ed Bandow and William Radue, owner of Pickerel Lake Resort cut the ice from Silver Lake. The first castle was built on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad property across from current day Moccasin Shop.

The next ice castle construction lead by Louis Behlow, didn’t occur until the winter of 1935-36, comprising of only 250 blocks of Ice. After this it became part of a annual tradition, and was planned out prior to construction.

F. W. Janusch a Chicago architect and summer resident designed the ice castle until 1942. Charles Hanke, who owned the Eagle River ice route way back when, provided the ice for the castles during these early years.

In the following years from 1942 to 1948 during World War II the castles where not constructed. Then in 1948 Charles Hanke built a castle on his front lawn. Charles Hank then continued to design the castles until about 1980 when his grandson Jack Thomas took over.

Although the design of the castle has stayed in Charles Hanke’s family since 1948, the organizers of the castles construction has changed hands multiple times. During the 50’s and 60’s the Eagle River Lions Club organized the project until they became overwhelmed with the World Championship Snowmobile Derby. The Eagle River Chamber of Commerce attempted to pick up the project during the 70’s, but eventually dropped the project when it became too overwhelming.

The Eagle River Area’s Volunteer Fire Department then took over in the mid 80’s with jack Thomas the assistant chief at the time. The department continues to build the castle every year with Jack Thomas’s design constructed from Legos.

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