Pure Ice Becomes Home City Ice

Ray Boren posted a note on two of the Central High School email newsletters that Pure Ice Co., a Cape institution since 1926 has been sold. I’ve always had a fascination with the place, located at 314 South Ellis, east of where St. Francis Hospital used to be.

I think it started when I’d go to work with my dad. He’d stop by when it was still dark to get ice to fill up the water cans for the job sites. The ice plant made the most delicious noise: there was the Clunk! SLLLLLLLLLLNNNNNNNNKKKKKK WHAM!! sound the ice made as it was released from the bowels of the building, slid down a chute and landed at the end. One experience was all it took for you to learn to NOT to have your fingers where the ice came down the chute.

Finally, there was the Chink! Chink! Chink! as dad chipped the 25-pound blocks into smaller pieces, using a wooden-handled ice pick with Pure Ice printed on it.

After breaking up the ice, he’d halve six or eight lemons, squeeze the juice into the water and throw the peels into the cans. “Lemon juice cuts thirst,” he’d proclaim. (And, he was right.)

Photos date back to 2000

I’m not sure when I started taking pictures of the place. I shot these in 2000, 2010 and 2011. There are others, but I couldn’t put my hands on them right away.

The one thing I HAVEN’T been able to do is talk my way inside the ice plant. I gave it a try this summer, but the owner turned me down because of “safety and insurance” reasons.

When I heard that the ice company had been sold, I gave Home City Ice a call to see if I could get in. Rumor had it that they weren’t making ice there because the product was being trucked in from elsewhere. Surely there can’t be any safety issues to go where equipment isn’t working, right?

After being passed around a couple of times, I was told the Chief Financial Officer, Jay Stautberg, was out of the office, but if I left him a voice mail, he’d get back with me. I did, and much to my surprise, Stautberg returned my call within a couple of hours.

Here’s a shot through the window

He confirmed that they had, indeed bought Pure Ice Co., but he couldn’t give me the OK to shoot inside because they only bought the business and signed a lease for cold storage. The Pure Ice folks had held onto the building. Stautberg also confirmed that the ice sold in Cape was being trucked in from two of their facilities, “but I’m not in operations, so I can’t tell you which ones.”

All in all, he was friendly and helpful. “We’re a family business and they were a family business, so we were a good fit,” he said. Pure Ice signs will gradually be replaced by Home City Ice ones.

A Cape resident said the sale may cause problems for one of his friends who does ice sculptures. He needs blocks of ice weighing as much as 800 pounds. The new company, it was thought, may only supply crushed ice. I hadn’t heard that in time to ask Strautberg, so I don’t have an answer to the question.

Sign was for how much ice to leave

While it’s true that Pure Ice on Ellis dates back to May 26, 1926, I discovered that it actually had its origin in Morrison Ice and Fuel in 1903 in a building that was just torn down for the new casino. Morrison became Riverside Ice and Fuel and was eventually bought out by Pure Ice. When refrigerators first started coming out, Pure Ice sold Coolerator iceboxes, but marketed them as a replacement for the old-fashioned wooden iceboxes (with a $5 trade-in), not as refrigerators as we know them today. Home ice delivery went on in Cape until the 1960s.

The sign above was to be placed in the window so the iceman would know how much ice to drop off. Note the phone number – 44 – only two digits.

Pure Ice photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.


Casino Main Street Relocation

Main Street used to have a slight jog around the old shoe factory, then go through a set of flood gates to cross Sloan Creek and head north through Red Star. To accommodate the new Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, Main Street was curved more to the north to tie directly into Chestnut Street / 177 / Big Bend Road. It looks like it’s going to cross the creek far enough west that it won’t need flood gates. A construction worker said he thought the old gates might be permanently closed.

Panorama of Main Street relocation

This is a stitching together of five photos ranging from the north end where the road meets Big Bend Road and running to south of Mill Street. I’m really impressed with the way Photoshop managed to blend the photos together. I didn’t do anything special to make sure they were overlapping or particularly level. Photoshop made all of the magic happen with a button push. Click on any photo to maker it larger. (This one should be about twice the size of what I normally post.)

Super-secret, hush-hush project

I wouldn’t have even attempted this in the old black and white darkroom days. Well, I should rethink that. Years and years ago, long before Google Earth, the boss called me into his office and said that he had a super-secret project he needed my help on and that I shouldn’t ask any questions. He wanted me to rent a helicopter and fly a grid, shooting photos of a particular area that I should join together to give a composite view of the target. I never passed up a chance to put on a safety harness, step out on a chopper’s skid and lean out into space, so I took the assignment.

Because I couldn’t shoot straight down, I ended up with almost a roomful of 8×10 prints that didn’t quite line up when they were spread out on the floor. It was acceptable to the guy who signed my check, though. As far as I know, nothing was ever developed on that plot of land and I never did find out what the mission was for. With modern equipment and software, it would have been a piece of cake.

Will float on columns of gravel

When I was talking with the friendly workers, I asked if they were pouring concrete columns for support or if they were pile-driving them. They said, neither. The equipment that looked like drilling rigs were used to bore holes in the ground, then gravel was poured into them with that funnel-looking thing so that the floor would ride on columns of gravel instead of concrete pillars.

“Wouldn’t be easier just to excavate the space, then put in the gravel and compact it?”

“That’s what we asked, but we were told that this is supposed to be more earthquake-proof.”

I’ll take their word for it. It’s an interesting technique that I haven’t run into in Florida where earthquakes are about the only calamity we DON’T face on a regular basis.

Mill Street has a twist in it

Because good highway practice is to have roads intersect at a 90-degree angle, Mill Street will have a curve to the left to tie it into the new Main Street. The houses on the right will have a service road or driveway to give them access to the street. Looks like Mill Hill isn’t going to be as neat as it used to be.

The guys I talked with had done a lot of the demolition. They said it was a lot tougher than they thought it would be and took longer than anticipated. “There were a lot of stone foundations and things we didn’t know about in advance. Down there by the pump house, there was a whole lot of concrete and even a couple of old smoke stacks.”

He was young enough that he didn’t know that there had once been a huge factory there.

A massive concrete pour has taken place since these photos were taken. You can read Melissa Miller’s version of it in The Missourian. Her construction workers told even better stories than mine did.


Morrison Ice and Fuel Falls to Casino

When I posted an aerial shot of the Casino area and one taken from the river levee, I received two comments and an email that sent me looking for a better vantage point. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

From Keith Robinson: Ken, if you notice, there is a brick structure in the lower left of the above aerial photo. That structure was built around 1908 and was the Morrison Ice and Fuel Company. It remained as such until sometime around 1931, when it is identified on Sanborn maps as Riverside Ice and Fuel Company. This business made ice for sale to city residents and also served the local railroad by providing ice for the old ice-cooled reefer cars.

From Drew Wright: Ken, there is a great view of the construction progress from Mill Street, at the upper left of your aerial shot.

From Keith Robinson: Ken, I drove down to Cape last night to visit my brother, Karl,  and dad.  I took the time to drive by the construction site and discovered the old building is no longer there.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  I am even more interested in any ground level pictures that you might have.

Morrison Ice and Fuel is gone

Keith was right. When I went to the Mill Street vantage point, there was a big empty space where the brick building south of the pumping station used to be. The new paving in the foreground is the Main Street relocation. I’ll have more photos of it in the next few days.

Keith is a real bulldog

Keith might have been a Central High Tiger in the old days, but he’s turned into a bulldog when it comes to area history. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s a model railroader who is attempting to recreate everything connected with rails between Nash Road and Cape Rock. Because the F.M. Morrison building hugs the old Frisco Railroad tracks, it’s within his area of interest. BNSF conductor Randy Graviett gave me a friendly wave from his caboose this spring. (OK, he’s not exactly waving in THIS photo, but he DID wave.)

As an example of his diligence, I present this pdf document of F M Morrison links he sent telling the history of the nondescript brick building.

Added sand and coal to the ice business

F.M. Morrison decided to buy the best equipment available to corner the ice market in the Cape Girardeau area in 1903 when he established The Morrison Ice and Cold Storage Co. In 1906, he dropped the cold-storage business to concentrate on the wholesale and retail ice and fuel business. It wasn’t long before he added coal and sand to his holdings. These photos were taken in 2009, long before I had any idea what the building was used for.

Henry Vogelsang renamed it Riverside Ice and Fuel Co.

In 1922, Henry H. Vogelsang bought the business and renamed it Riverside Ice and Fuel Co. In 1928, 21 horses burned to death in a barn at Riverside. The damage, about a third of which was covered by insurance, was estimated at $5,000. The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

Five businesses hit; total take: $35

A 1932 Missourian story reported that “Burglars ransacked five establishments in Cape Girardeau over the weekend, wrecking two safes and making off with only about $35; places entered were Cape Sand Co., Sides Oil Co., a gasoline station owned by Simpson Oil Co., Riverside Ice and Fuel Co. oil station and the Cape Girardeau Memorial Works office.”

That was a lot of burglarizing for such a small return.

Riverside became Pure Ice Company

Pure Ice Co., which was established May 26, 1926, on 314 S. Ellis Street (and still produces ice), eventually bought Riverside. When refrigerators first started coming out, Pure Ice sold Coolerator iceboxes, but marketed them as a replacement for the old-fashioned wooden iceboxes (with a $5 trade-in), not as refrigerators as we know them today. Home ice delivery went on in Cape until the 1960s.

The iceman was a familiar character in Cape. There was a surprisingly long obituary for Sam Randol, “well-known colored ice dealer. Randol was among the better colored citizens of Cape Girardeau and stood high both among the people of his race as well as among the white citizens. He had been in the ice business here since a young man and was known by most every family in the city.”






Isle Casino Cape Girardeau Construction Update

I was riding my bike north on the new (to me) river trail that ends at Sloan Creek. I could hear construction equipment on the land side of the floodwall, so I welcomed an opportunity to go up a gravel road leading to the top of the levee to take a peek. Here’s what I saw. This is on the north end of the Casino construction zone. (You can click on the photo to make it larger.)

Aerial from April

This is what the area looked like in April. The recent photo was taken just south of the power substation in this picture. You can see the white concrete river trail running along the water’s edge. Where the concrete seawall ends and the earthen levee begins, it jogs to the east. Just beyond it, you can see the gravel access road I went up. The photo was taken on the south end of the gravel area, looking slightly southwest.

Here are other casino area aerial photos taken in April 2011 and November 2010.