Editor’s note: This is the 400th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — For decades, E.S. Morgan was Huntington’s iceman.
Morgan’s father started making ice in Oak Hill, Ohio, in the years just before World War I. “He had a creamery business,” Morgan said in a 1988 interview with The Herald-Dispatch. “He needed ice to cool his butter and cream to ship it by rail. So he built an ice plant for that purpose.”
In 1934, Morgan’s father moved to Huntington and built an ice plant and warehouse at 139 7th Ave. That was in the days when nearly every home had a wooden ice box, and every ice box needed regular deliveries of block ice. Back then, Morgan’s was one four ice houses in Huntington. Ultimately, his City Ice Delivery Co. would be the sole survivor of the four.
As families began replacing their old ice boxes with electric refrigerators, Morgan had to watch as his business melted away before his eyes. Accordingly, he switched to selling mainly packaged ice to supermarkets and convenience stores.
At their peak, Huntington’s ice houses once sold more than 400 tons of ice a day. By the 1980s, City Ice was selling maybe 25 tons of ice on a good day, Morgan said. “Every third or fourth summer we have a real heat wave, and our sales go way, way up.”
A record-setting heat wave in July of 1977 emptied the City Ice cold storage room, which normally held 8,000 10-pound bags of ice. Bill Morgan, who had joined his father in operating City Ice, said the record heat wave forced the company to ration its ice sales. “Customers don’t understand why we can give them only 50 bags of ice when they ask for 200.”
According to records in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, City Ice Delivery Co. went out of business in 1991. Today, the 7th Avenue site of the company’s former ice house is a vacant lot.