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Crystal Ice House.

Crystal Ice House

Field review by the editors.

Pensacola, Florida

The Crystal Ice House might be mistaken for a vintage gas station, but in fact it's something more rare: a vintage ice station. Built in 1932, it's the lone survivor of four in Pensacola that were, according to its historical marker, "an integral part of neighborhood life during the years before household refrigeration." Customers would drive or walk under its awning (enhanced with fake icicles) and wordlessly order ice from 100 pounds (one finger) to 12.5 pounds (five fingers) using the station's "Hand Signals for Service" plaque as a guide.

Crystal Ice House hand signals.
Crystal Ice House hand signals.

The people of subtropical Pensacola, normally unfamiliar with ice, would naturally associate it with a building that looked frozen, even though the exterior "ice" of the Crystal Ice House is in fact white stucco mixed with mica so that it sparkles in the Florida sun. A preservation group cleaned the building in the early 2000s, briefly restoring its pristine glory, but it now looks a little grimy, like a real ice house would look a few days after a storm.

The neighborhood once served by the ice house has seen better times, as has the ice house, which stands out-of-bounds behind a six-foot high hurricane fence, awaiting restoration at some vague future date. It has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2007 the local newspaper named it one of the Seven Wonders of Pensacola.

Crystal Ice House

N. Davis Hwy, Pensacola, FL
North of downtown, on the southeast corner of Hwy 291/N. Davis Hwy and E. Jordan St.
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