EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 38th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON -- Who doesn't love ice cream? Americans eat millions of tons of the tasty treat every year, and Huntingtonians are no exception.
The Imperial Ice Cream Co. was organized in 1908 and built its Huntington plant at 8th Avenue and 1st Street in 1921. In 1945, it was acquired by Fairmont Foods of Omaha, Nebraska. (The name "Fairmont Foods" was derived from the location of the company's original dairy products plant in at Fairmont, Nebraska.)
In a 1956 interview with the Huntington Advertiser, plant manager John W. File said the Huntington plant had 54 employees and an annual payroll of approximately $200,000. File said it produced about 900,000 gallons of ice cream and sherbets each year, sold to customers in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio, and delivered by a fleet of two dozen trucks. The ice cream was marketed under the brand name "Fairmont Imperial."
The company produced its own milk, delivered to the Huntington plant each morning in tank trucks lined with stainless steel. The process of turning the milk into ice cream was highly automated, with the product pumped through a complex series of pipes, tanks and vats, ending up on a packaging line that turned out filled containers at a rate of 1,000 gallons an hour. "No hand touches it from cow to carton," File said.
By 1961, Fairmont Foods had consolidated its ice cream production at its plant in Parkersburg and converted the Huntington facility into a wholesale distribution center for its dairy products. Fairmont closed its Huntington operation in the 1970s, and the old ice cream plant was later demolished.
In 1984, its site was used for construction of Trowbridge Manor, an 86-unit high-rise apartment building operated by the Huntington Housing Authority. The building's namesake, Robert Trowbridge, spent 35 years with the Housing Authority, retiring as it executive director.
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