The Ice House Has Served Silsbee For 60 Years: Making ice and now as a Museum
ArtTrain USA - November 16, 17, 18 and 19
ArtTrain USA is a five-car train that travels across the country presenting original works of art depicting the birth of the space age. Artists include Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Peter Max, James Wheth and Norman Rockwell. The train will provide a gift shop demonstrating as well as a variety of local artists selected to work by them. Some of the local artists demonstrating will be Randy Welborn, Bryan Welborn, Betty Iles, Sylvia Weir, Anita Murphy and Rose Stark. Docents will provide guided tours to the public through the weekend and to the area school groups on the following Monday and Tuesday.
History of The Ice House Museum
The Silsbee Ice House located at Ernest Avenue was erected by Gulf States Utilities in 1928. In 1943 ownership was transferred to H.C. Hopkins and C.F. Young. Later, Newton Hopkins took over for his father. At that time Ice House production was about 30,000 tons of ice a week.
When refrigeration was invented, people no longer needed block ice for their ice boxes so demand slowed. The Ice House continued to produce ice, however, for recreational events and a variety of local companies. In 1983, the Ice House closed and remained unused until 1990.
The idea to turn the building into a museum was the brain child of Silsbee resident Helen White. After enlisting a group of like-minded people, the Hardin County Arts and Education Foundation was established.
On September 12, 1991, the Ice House received Silsbee's only historical designation from the Texas Historical Commission. With the help of volunteers and donations, the badly deteriorating building was restored to a usable condition, and the volunteers began to acquire permanent works of art and historical pieces for display.
To exhibit the artwork, these volunteers designed a fine art gallery where exhibitions continue to draw art lovers year round. It has featured the works of notable artists such as Tom K. Sims, Sparky Balla, Betty Iles, Robynna Prescott, Jerry Newman, Roger Ratliff, Goldie Winger, and Kim Allen. Included in their permanent collection are works by the late Maudee Carron, Bucky Milam, Peggy Osborne, Frank Gerriets, Lynn Sweat and Frank White.
Currently, the board of directors is uncertain of its historical acquisitions and is preparing to review its inventory. Many persons from the community have come forward recently offering to donate a unique variety of artifacts. For instance, local craftsman Gilvert Dominguez is remembered as a particularly gifted woodworker. He passed away in July of 1991. The local chapter of Eastern Star has donated ten chairs made by him.
The Ice House Today
Recently, the Ice House accepted a generous donation from the City of Silsbee's Economic Development Corporation for renovations. Seeing the enthusiasm of its current board of directors and their plans for a variety of future events, the City believed it would be a worthwhile project. The Ice House now has a newly leveled and finished floor in its lower section which has added 2,000 square feet of usable space to accommodate group meetings, workshops, historical acquisition displays, and variety of other activities. A new handicap access ramp has been installed as well as new windows and doors. The walls and ceiling have been painted, a new kitchen area installed to provide a refreshment preparation area, and a new entry walk has been added. In addition, a new office has been built which will provide additional space for administration organization.
Activities and Events
All of the construction has not slowed activities at the Ice House. Since the beginning of the year the Ice House has continued to present fine art shows with opening receptions. Betty Iles was featured in January 2002 as a result of her winning "Best of Show" at the 2001 artist competition, an annual event.
In February, Black history was featured also as an annual event.
In March, the artwork of Silsbee's school children was featured, sponsored by the Performing and Visual Arts Council.
April featured the photography of Doris Brown and a Lamar University's Art Department Design class assignment of photograms.
One of the more exciting recent events has been the summer art program for children. Silsbee's branch of Community Bank and Trust generously donated funds to establish "Kool Art for Kool Kids" in memory of Randy Stuart. The project provided a week long summer art program taught by Laura Reeves Elementary School art instructor Rose Stark. Thirty children enrolled in the program which was deemed a success according to the results of a survey the Ice House Museum distributed to parents.
In August, the Ice House will hold its annual "Piney Woods Artist Competition," which will be judged this year by Alexis McCarthy, director of the Beaumont Art League.
Recently, the Ice House Museum board received news of particular interest, Nationally underwritten by Daimler-Chrysler Corp., and locally sponsored by Mead-Westvaco, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, and the City of Silsbee Economic Development Corporation through the South East Texas Arts Council, ArtTrain USA will arrive in Silsbee November 16, 17, 18 and 19 of this year. ArtTrain USA is a five-car train that travels across the country presenting original works of art to communities that might not otherwise have the opportunity to view it. Its destination will be between the Ice House Museum and Silsbee Public Library.
The exhibit will feature original works of art depicting the birth of the space age. Artists whose work has been selected include Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Peter Max, James Wheth, and Norman Rockwell. The train will provide a gift shop car with a resident artist demonstrating as well as a variety of local artists selected to work by them. Some of the local artists who have tentatively agreed to demonstrate include Randy Welborn, Bryan Welborn, Betty Iles, Sylvia Weir, Anita Murphy and Rose Stark. Docents will provide guided tours to the public through the weekend and to the area school groups on the following Monday and Tuesday.
Since the beginning of this year, the Ice House Museum has seen a marked increase in membership. From a mere 23 members as of last year, they now have nearly 80 with an average of three new members joining each week.
The current board of directors includes president Clinton Wright, vice-president Joy Crenshaw, treasurer Cesar Dominguez, secretary Sue Bard, Bob Paret, Roger Ratliff, Margaret Undershill, Ouida Edwards, Jimmie Wright, and Edna Dominguez.
The Ice House Museum at 818 Ernest & 4th Street in Silsbee, is open Wednesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Saturday, 9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. For more information call 409-385-2444.
Also see: Silsbee Bee Stories, Ice House Museum