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BULLEThistory archive

History Archive Photo
Arizona Ice and Cold Storage Co. employees pose next to a delivery truck. The company helped keep Tucson cool for much of the 20th century.

© Arizona Historical Society

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The Big Chill
Before air conditioning became commonplace after World War II, icehouses made it a little easier to survive summer in Arizona. They also helped keep the beer cold.

By Danielle Grobmeier

It’s hard to imagine how Arizonans battled the heat — much less enjoyed an ice-cream cone on a hot summer day — before air conditioning came to be. Fortunately, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Arizona’s ice industry took off, and in 1879, Tucson’s first ice-making machine started producing the cold stuff.

In the decades that followed, Tucson’s downtown exploded with deals between vendors and entertainment venues, which sought ice to serve cold beer and frozen treats. Competition also grew, and soon there were several icehouses operating in the area. One of them was the Arizona Ice and Cold Storage Co.

Local businessman Jack B. Martin founded the company in 1922. According to reports, it was one of the largest ice-making facilities in town, with 32 delivery routes, as well as other distribution methods, including vending machines and cold-storage facilities. Martin eventually sold the company, but he stayed on board as its manager until 1959, when he retired.

The era of icehouses came to an end when air conditioning and refrigeration became more commonplace after World War II.

The Arizona Ice and Cold Storage facility, located on the 1000 block of East 17th Street, closed in 2002. It was later converted into the Ice House Lofts, which includes more than 50 apartments.

>> Back to History Archive


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