American Ice Company Baltimore Plant #2
330, W 23rd St., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The American Ice Company Baltimore Plant #2 is comprised of two industrial buildings: an original stone ice manufacturing building and a brick ice storage addition. The stone building, built in 1905, is two stories high with the exception of a small three-story section at the southeast corner. Building walls are punctuated by an irregular arrangement of windows and doorways in many different styles and sizes. The interior is subdivided into large open workspaces with high ceilings currently leased to woodworkers, metalworkers, and other industrial artisans. Features include original wood post and beam construction, wood strip flooring, three long clerestories, old metal fire doors, and an unusual curved wooden ramp that provides direct vehicular access from street level to the second floor. None of the machinery used for the production of ice remains. The adjoining brick ice storage building, built in 1919, is an immense, nearly windowless structure with the height of a six-story building. Tapering brick buttresses support brick walls that are more than two feet thick near the base of the building. The fortress-like exterior is relieved just below the roofline by louvered ventilation openings. The interior of the building suffers from severe deterioration resulting from a collapsing roof that has permitted water entry, and has been vacant for decades. The brick walls are coated on the interior with asphalt and insulated with the remains of a wood plank wall that retained a foot-thick layer of ground cork. Iron refrigeration pipes dangle from the ceiling. Wooden stairs with wooden ice-elevator framework still stand in each half of the building. An insulated non-structural wood wall partitions the interior into two equal-sized full-height spaces. There are no interior floors, only wood sleepers resting on a crushed stone base. The plant is surrounded by small grass plots along the side and rear, cobblestone and asphalt paving along the inner block of the lot, and a concrete retaining wall on the north end of the lot. Despite some alterations and deterioration, the American Ice Company retains its integrity as an urban, early-20th century ice manufacturing facility.
The American Ice Company Baltimore Plant #2 is historically significant as a surviving artificial ice manufacturing plant, associated with the growth and development of an industry that made a significant contribution to everyday life for Baltimore residents and the needs of local businesses. Ice was a necessary commodity from the mid 19th century through the mid 20th century for both businesses and households to keep food from spoiling. Comparable to the use of coal for heating in the winter, ice was needed on a daily basis during hot summers. The artificial ice manufacturing industry came to prominence after the failure of ice harvests in the north at the turn of the 20th century. With the technological ability to produce ice artificially, ice companies built plants in Baltimore and throughout the United States around the turn of the 20th century. With the rapid growth of household refrigeration after World War II, the industry faded and most ice manufacturing plants were razed. This plant is one of the few that survived and retains physical reminders of three important aspects of this industry: the manufacture of artificial ice in the 1905 stone building, the storage of ice in the 1919 brick ice storage house, and the delivery of ice to households and businesses from a wagon works accessed by an interior ramp in the stone building.