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Ice History

Elli Morris and the Block Ice Era

by St. Augustine Distillery


Remember those blistering days of summer when you used to chase the ice wagon down the street hoping some shard of icy heaven would shake loose and become yours for the brief seconds of its life?

Of course you don’t. Ice wagons were pretty much a thing of the past by the 1940’s. But Mary Louise Banta does. As related to her son James, she remembers chasing that St. Augustine Ice Co. wagon, probably as it rolled out from Bernard St and into the wilting lanes of North City and the new neighborhoods just beyond May St.

By the time James Banta was old enough to stay out of trouble for ten minutes, he was able to remember family vacations on Pellicer Creek, the first stop being the FL&P Ice Plant on Riberia St. There, the family picked up ice blocks to cool their iceboxes and to keep food fresh during their stay.

That was life before refrigerators; before air-conditioned movie palaces, and cars; before giant Trane Units fought with the family dog for possession of the back yard. Life in those days involved ICE and lots of it. It didn’t last very long so plants sprung up all over to supply it; 4,800 plants, employing 100,000 people, making 40 million tons of ice by 1920 according to the US Census.

How did they make all that ice? Well the building that houses the new St Augustine Distillery and Ice Plant Restaurant was once part of that Icy History and the owners want to share some of those frigid memories with you.

They Distillery has invited Elli Morris, a real Ice Princess, to come to town and share with us the story of “Cooling the South”, her book about the Block Ice Era from 1875 to 1975. Morris is the great grand-daughter, granddaughter, and daughter of real Ice Folks; owners of the Morris Ice Company of Jackson, Mississippi. Long ago shuttered, the company and its product are alive in her recollections and research about the era.

Elli will be in Apalachicola, the town in which Dr. John Gorrie discovered a process for making artificial ice in 1854, to help that town celebrate its annual “Ice Festival”. No matter that Gorrie was trying to cure yellow fever, his efforts produced an always-available supply of ice.

Come join Elli as she thaws your memories, or just learn something about a truly unique period in Southern History. August 14; 6:30-8:00 pm; Elli’s talk, Zach’s ice carving, cocktail lore. Distillery Entrance Call: 904 825-4962