The demand for ice in America increased from 1,000 tons annually to around 80,000 tons annually between 1835 and 1870. Ice delivery to businesses and the affluent was a lucrative industry.
Baltimore’s first large-scale ice plant opened its doors in 1825. To try to keep up with the growing demand for ice, huge ice storage facilities were constructed along the Susquehanna River in 1860.
The Maine-based Knickerbocker Ice Company combined with Consolidated Ice in June 1898 to become the American Ice Company, which went public in 1899.
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Charles W. Morse was in charge of American Ice. Unfortunately, the corporation lost money in 1900 as a result of growing costs and heightened competition.
Even so, American Ice continued to run four sizable ice plants in Baltimore. All of these enterprises combined to generate 103,000 tons of ice in 1906.
The city got 70% of its ice from artificial ice made in this way, and the other 30% came from ponds and rivers in the area.
The American Ice Company purchased land in Baltimore, Maryland at 2100 West Franklin Street in July 1910. The next year, a brick factory was built so that fake ice could be made and sent to all of the Central Atlantic states.
The ice storage facility at the two-story factory had a capacity of 14,000 tons.
The facility produced 125 tons of ice per day and could extract 60 gallons of water per minute from two wells that were roughly 200 feet deep when it first started working in 1911.
The American Ice Company rose to become the second-largest industrial ice distributor in the US by the 1940s. Sales increased to $6 million annually in 1941.
But American Ice changed the way it made ice, and by the 1980s, as refrigerators and freezers became more common in homes and businesses, it mostly made bagged ice for commercial use and dry ice for industrial clients.
The factory experienced a fire in May 2001, but as just the back of the building was destroyed, production was unaffected.
The facility was shut down in March 2004 after a more serious fire caused significant damage to the entire structure.
The defunct plant was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
A plan to rebuild the former plant has been created by Bill Struver of Cross Street Partners and Washington developer Ilya Alter.
As the National Register listing for the building requires, they want to rebuild the property while keeping its historic look.
The home was purchased by Ilya Alter in 2016 for $540,000. He and Struver want to turn the factory into a place that can be used for many things. It will have 40 homes, an outdoor area, a restaurant with a performance hall, and an outdoor space.
The project received $2.5 million in state historical tax incentives in November 2018. However, given that the total cost of rehabilitation is $18.7 million, this represents a mere drop in the bucket.
A portion of the structure was removed in July 2019 to make way for the creation of a new multipurpose area. By the summer of 2020, it is predicted that the project will be finished.
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