Old Eureka Springs Icehouse

You've most likely noticed the ruins of this building on North Main, adjacent to the Eureka Spring Railroad and across the street from the Roundhouse. According to old Sanborn maps, it was originally known as the Ice Factory and Electric Light Plant of Eureka Springs. Later in 1904, it belonged to the Citizens Electric Company and acted as the city light and power plant, ice factory, and cold storage.

The building has been for sale for as long as I can remember, and is slowly being reclaimed by nature. The stone work is in desperate need of repointing, and rumor has it that renovation estimates are in the millions of dollars. It's truly a shame, as it is an awesome piece of Eureka's history. My own personal if-money-wasn't-an-object vision would be to stabilize the shell and build a glass-top community swimming pool structure within.

In case you're wondering why an old building is appearing on a site about the underground, well it all began with an insurance map from 1897. We noticed something marked on the map as a "Hollow Brick Incline" that led to a 30x30 "Bk. Ch." It appeared to run up the hill behind the icehouse. What exactly was the "Bk. Ch."? A brick chute leading underground? A brick chimney or chamber?

Determined to solve this historical mystery, we set out on foot from a trail near Magnetic Spring. Eventually it disappeared in the woods, so we just kept heading in the direction of the icehouse. We came across some interesting rock bluffs and several "guard chickens" foraging in the woods. I had sketched up some measurements of where this "brick incline" was supposed to be in comparison with the icehouse, based on the map (and assuming that the surveyor's dimensions were accurate).

Unfortunately, the only incline we found was the hill, with a few bricks scattered here and there, and it didn't lead up to anything. Whatever this "Bk. Ch." used to be, it is long gone. (Update: I've since discovered photos of a large chimney stack in this location!) It doesn't show up on the Sanborn map from 1904. We went ahead and snapped some photos while we were back there, since this is a view of the icehouse that you don't get to see every day. There were two large holes in the ground covered with massive circular metal plates - these seem to correlate with the location of two former water tanks.

Peering inside the icehouse from behind, it appears that it is being used to store all kinds of junk, like old soda machines, traincar cushions, and xmas lights. Perhaps someday a deep-pocketed philanthropist will scoop up this property and do something to save it. It could be developed into a museum, antique mall, or community center. I'd even be happy to see some condos being built inside it, if it meant that the historic building shell was restabilized and preserved. Real Estate in Eureka Springs isn't cheap, and this is a prime piece of commercial street frontage, with free city parking just across the street. It's a great location. It would be a shame for it to deteriorate so badly that it must be torn down.

Eureka Springs Ice House and Power Company
Photos copyright © UndergroundEureka.com

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Photos copyright © UndergroundEureka.com

Eureka Springs Icehouse
The Eureka Springs Icehouse
1897 Sanborn Map Image of Icehouse
Strange "Brick Incline" on 1897 Insurance Map
Upper Level Platform Inside the Icehouse
Upper Level Platform Inside the Icehouse
Stored Junk in the Old Icehouse
Once Cold Storage, now Junk Storage
Trees Growing in the Dynamo Room
Trees Growing in the Dynamo Room