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Andersonville's Urban Igloo Brings Community Outdoors in Chiberia

By Darryl Holliday | January 6, 2014 6:24am
  Some Andersonville residents have built an ice shelter from the storm. 
Urban Igloo Brings Community Outdoors for Chiberia
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ANDERSONVILLE — Who can resist the allure of a urban igloo in the dead of winter?

On the eve of a bone-chilling cold front, Darick Maasen said neighbors had kept an eye on the construction of his 7-by-9-foot snow structure. And after a Facebook group, a Google group and sign-up sheet emerged, Maasen had his igloo crew.

Neighbors have been stopping by with their kids to take a closer look since it was completed Saturday night.

The homemade igloo is a community draw, and as the temperature took a nosedive Sunday, the interior of the heat-retaining igloo has stayed about 20 to 30 degrees warmer than outside. 

Susan Boyle decided to bring her 3-year-old daughter over to play when she spied it being built in the yard next to hers. 

"I'm still trying to figure out why it's so cool, but it's the coolest thing ever" she said, as her daughter, Otti, played with Ella Hively, her 3-year-old friend, in the igloo. "It's a childhood snow fort dream come true."

The North Side snow fort took a crew of about 20 friends 14 hours to complete across two days, Maasen and his fiancee, Selena Grodek, said during a grand tour of their igloo. That crew included snow packers, brick builders, gatherers and hot chocolate makers.

As in 2011, after the igloo construction, it was time for the igloo construction after-party.

"We've met so many of our neighbors," Maasen, an art director and backyard igloo aficionado, said, describing the building process, which involves a tool called the Icebox and dozens of pounds of snow. "An igloo brings people together. Everyone wanted to donate their snow."

The three-sided Icebox features a pivot pole, and it compresses snow into bricks. When a brick is formed, the pole moves the box one step to the side, forming each consecutive brick in a circular, concave pattern until the igloo is sealed.

With the help of Maasen's friend, Drew Huening, who's built at least six igloos, Maasen has broken his personal record for backyard igloo height. In 2011, Maasen and Huening made an 11-by-8.5-foot foot igloo; the two have since improved on its design.

At about 8 inches thick, the structure reinforces itself by collecting falling snow on the outside and refreezing melted ice water collecting at its base inside.

Maasen said he expects the igloo to last through the winter, especially with the deep freeze on the way Monday.

"It was totally worth it," Maasen said. "Can you put a price on an igloo?"

"Nobody in Chicago has one, as far as we know," he added. "I think we're going to do our weekly board game night in here."