Historic Structures

Crystal Ice Company Building, Pensacola Florida

Date added: June 11, 2022 Categories: Florida Retail Roadside Attraction

Guy Spearman, a noted Pensacola brewer, established the Crystal Ice Company in about 1930. Ice manufacturing was scarcely a new industry to West Florida, having developed during the late 1860s in conjunction with Pensacola's snapper fishing industry. The household ice box also consumed large amounts of manufactured ice. By the 1920s, however, refrigerators began to appear in affluent households, reducing the need for manufactured ice. Refrigerators remained expensive, however, and in many middle and lower income areas the ice box was a common appliance through the 1930s and 1940s. Spearman oriented his marketing toward such lower income neighborhoods, and established three dealerships in African-American workers neighborhoods.

The Crystal Ice dealership was a fanciful, but efficient building. The impact of the automobile on society is readily apparent in Crystal Ice Company's emphasis on drive-through service. The building's stucco icicles and polar bear instantly conveyed the purpose of the building to passing motorists. Customers could drive up nearly to the door of the building, flash one of the convenient hand signals carved on the stuccoed walls, and be quickly and efficiently served.

Crystal Ice Company continued to operate until 1970. With the death of Guy Spearman, the company was purchased by the Connohio Corporation and the dealerships closed. The other two dealerships have since been demolished.

Building Description

The Crystal Ice Building is a small commercial building located in Pensacola, Florida. It was designed and built by Steve Fulghum and is a very unusual example of "Roadside Commercial" architecture. It is built of concrete block with applied stucco ornament and is in fair condition. The building has seen some deterioration, but only minimal alteration.

Contractor Steve Fulghum designed and built the trapezoidal-shaped building with the west (front) facade wider than the east facade. The west facade is 20 feet wide while the back facade is only 19 feet. The north and south sides are 14 feet long. It is oriented about 45 degrees from parallel with the street, and has a concrete driveway running in front of it from Davis Street to Jordan Street. The influence of the automobile age is apparent in the cantilevered overhanging roof on the west facade. This overhand extends 10 feet from the building and is 17 feet long. Since the building was intended only for use as an outlying dealership, its design is simple and functional, allowing customers to drive by and quickly purchase their ice. The interior of the building has a small office and large storage freezer. Carved in the stucco of the west facade wall is a sign illustrating the hand signals to be used by customers to order ice without leaving their cars.

The building is built of concrete block and is entirely covered with rough cast stucco. It has three doorways, two on the west facade and one on the south facade. One of the building's two windows is located on the east facade. The second is on the south side, and like the doorway beside it, it has a hood over it. The roof of the building is flat, with an irregular parapet. The building rests on a large concrete slab.

Decorative elements of the building graphically convey its function as an ice dealership. Two massive stuccoed columns in the shape of icicles flank the west facade. The irregular, jagged edges of the parapet and the roughness of the stucco on the exterior also convey the impression that the building is carved from a large block of ice. Stucco icicles drip from the roofline, from the window lintels, and from the hoods over the door and window on the south facade. The icicles are formed around metal reinforcing bars. Finally, in the center of the roof on the west facade, above the bold block letters proclaiming the Crystal Ice Company, stands a stucco polar bear.