2011-06-08 / Front Page

Cold History

Old ice plant reopens as multipurpose facility
By Elizabeth Billips lizbillips@yahoo.com

Waynesboro is only weeks away from reopening the doors to its circa 1890s ice plant. Just one year ago, the 8,524 square- foot Barron Street structure was close to falling in on itself. But after an extensive stabilization and renovation project, it will reopen as the city’s new showcase and multipurpose building.

Besides housing the offices for the building inspector and community development director, the Waynesboro Ice Plant has a huge meeting room and bricked courtyard. Situated along the city’s 3.5- mile greenway, it will also be a trail head with public restrooms and parking.

But of all the perks, city officials agree their favorite parts of the ice plant are those that were mostly left alone – from the Fairbanks Morse diesel generator that city employees once used to power the entire city to the peeled plaster and exposed brick. “It has its own unique style,” Building Inspector Marcus Cobb said as he perused the collection of antique machinery that will serve as museum pieces for a public learning center.


Building inspector Marcus Cobb looks at the Fairbanks Morse generator that once powered the whole city. Building inspector Marcus Cobb looks at the Fairbanks Morse generator that once powered the whole city. For Senator Jesse Stone, this second-life for the nearly lost building is the meeting of vision and opportunity

“I was wowed,” the senator said after his most recent walkthrough. “When we first talked about doing this everybody, including me, was very skeptical.”

That would have been back in 2004 when Sen. Stone first took office as Waynesboro’s mayor. Despite the ice plant’s collapsing ceilings and partially tumbled walls, he instantly fell in love with the building he remembered from his childhood. He’d been told about the artesian well out back that had been the city’s first water source and how the gigantic generator had supplied Waynesboro’s first electricity. Stone began a big push to save the building and finally got the go-ahead when the Department of Transportation stepped up with grants totaling more than a million dollars.


A Canton manufactured ammonia pump was used in the ice making process. The pump is displayed outside the plant. A Canton manufactured ammonia pump was used in the ice making process. The pump is displayed outside the plant. “I was told that at one time the city almost had the building demolished but the cost of demolition was too high,” he laughed.

Instead, the city would chip in around $100,000 for the renovation, mostly in engineering and in-kind labor costs. And that’s less money, city administrator Jerry Coalson said, than tearing down the building and relocating the machinery would have cost.

Though ice hasn’t been made on Barron Street since the 1960s, city officials say preserving the old feel of the plant was one of the best things they accomplished. “If we were going to keep calling it the ice plant we knew we had to keep in tune with the historical character of the building,” Coalson said, pointing out the antique ammonia pump that was once used for ice production.

Sen. Stone agrees and hopes the ice plant will serve as a model for saving other historic buildings on the verge of ruin.

“The ice plant will be a big resource for the whole community,” he said, noting that more than 90 percent of the project was funded through state grants. “The city was not only able to preserve an important piece of history but was able to put it back to use at a cost that was less than new construction.”

SEE FOR YOURSELF

The business community is invited to tour the ice plant at Coffee Before Hours on Friday, June 24. For the general public, a ribbon cutting will be scheduled for later this summer.

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