NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you happen to be along the water on this frigid day and see big chunks of ice floating along, you might wonder: could New York Harbor ever freeze solid?

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, it has happened over the years, just not in a long time.

When the harbor froze in 1780, the British were in a fever of anxiety, recalled the New York Times.

Fearing General Washington’s Army could just march into Manhattan, cannons were mounted on sleighs. All citizens between 17 and 60 were mustered into service, but the attack never came.

The mood was very different when in 1821 it happened again, and as the Times described some adventurous person built a temporary tavern on the ice midway between New York and Hoboken, dispensing their eatables and drinkables.

The shallower East River has frozen more often over the years, most famously in 1867, when ferry service was stopped cold and officials decided a bridge was needed between New York and Brooklyn. Sixteen years later the Brooklyn Bridge was completed.