Originally an ice house that produced ice for local homes and businesses, the Ice House Museum has since become the home of local art work and the Hardin County Genealogical Society.
The ice house operation began in a brick building that was erected in 1928 by Gulf States Utilities to produce ice for the area.
Located on Ernest Avenue, just off of Business 96 that runs through Silsbee, it is just across the street from where the old City Hotel was once located. At the time the ice house was built, Gulf States owned and operated the water well that serviced Silsbee. It was located next to the ice house. The city of Silsbee later bought the water well and started operating it from the city hall.
Gulf States had ice shipped to area towns by railroad until trucks were utilized for transportation. Ice was delivered to homes by way of horse-drawn wagons and by truck later on. By 1954, the home delivery service was discontinued, as more people were working out in the public.
In 1943, the ice house was purchased from Gulf States by three men, Newton Hopkins, his father H.C. Hopkins and C.F. Young. They continued to produce 30 tons of ice blocks a day.
Newton Hopkins oprated the ice house from 1943 till 1981 when he sold the business to the Sparkle Ice Company of Houston. The ice house closed in 1983 and the building lay unused until 1990.
The Ice House Museum arose from the dreams and perserverance of local citizen Helen White, who enlisted a group of like-minded people. Together they created the Hardin County Arts and Educational Foundation and one of their aspirations was the creation of a fine arts and educational museum. After searching for a suitable building, the group was able, in 1990, to purchase the old ice house.
The Ice House Museum building has one of Silsbee's few historical designations. So, with donations of funds and materials, volunteers gave thousands of hours of work restoring the badly deteriorated building to a workable condition. A slump in funds and volunteers has slowed the completion of the restoration, but work still continues.
The museum has an exhibition hall in which fine art is on display year-round. Monthly exhibits feature local and area artists of all media. The museum's permanent collection of fine art works hangs in the Permanent Collection Room and is available for viewing in between featured monthly exhibits in the main exhibit hall. Also on exhibit are relics and pictures from by-gone times.
One of the museum's aims is the involvement of the area's youth in its activities. In cooperation with the Hardin County Extension Agent, the work of the county's young artists, inventors and scientists is featured each May. The museum celebrates Black History Month with an annual show each February. During the school year, hundreds of students visit the exhibits to learn more about area fine artists and their works.
For a number of years the Ice House Museum has been organized and run by volunteers and local artists. Artist Kim Allen was the curator of the museum for several years. Silsbee artist Jenny Miller took over as curator last year. Joyce Stokes is currently in charge of exhibits.
Along with works of art, the Ice House Museum is also the home of the Hardin County Genealogical Society. The group meets monthly and welcomes newcomers and visitors to come and find out more about the people and places of Hardin County.
The Ice House Museum is located at 818 Earnest Ave. in Silsbee. The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Special shows and open houses are scheduled during the weekends throughout the year. For more information call 385-2444.
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