Waynesboro ice plant to reopen as museum

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Jean Culpepper, of Augusta, looks at the diesel generator used to power two compressors to make ice at the Waynesboro Ice Plant museum, Thursday, June 30, 2011, in Waynesboro, Ga.
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. --- You might call it Georgia's coolest museum.

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The remodeled facility features some of the original equipment, including the electrical switchgear that was used to control electricity from a diesel generator.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
The remodeled facility features some of the original equipment, including the electrical switchgear that was used to control electricity from a diesel generator.

When it opens later this year, the renovated Waynesboro Ice Plant will be devoted to a commodity largely taken for granted.

"Before the plant was built, ice was shipped by rail," said City Manager Jerry Coalson. "They had giant blocks, insulated in sawdust to keep it from melting."

As the use of compressed ammonia refrigeration spread in the early 1900s, most households added "iceboxes," and cities that once imported ice from northern lakes began to make their own.

Waynesboro's plant opened in 1905 near the railroad tracks and quickly became one of the city's most important facilities, operating until the early 1970s.

By then, its equipment was obsolete and ice was no longer in mass demand. The building languished and crumbled, and in 2000 the city took bids for its demolition.

"Fortunately, all the bids came in too high," Coalson said. "The building was not torn down."

Plans for the site's resurrection began in 2005, when a series of Transportation Enhancement Act grants were awarded to help transform the building into a $1.1 million museum and visitors center with offices, meeting space and educational facilities.

With the help of architects from Athens, Ga., planning firm Armentrout Matheny Thurmond, the plant has been remodeled to offer visitors a glimpse into the city's industrial past.

"When it was open, you could come to the window and buy ice -- blocks, shaved, any way you wanted," Coalson said. "There was a big porch where people waited in line to pay."

During the renovation, almost $100 in coins dating back nearly a century was found beneath the wooden boards.

Inside, there are new floors, modern restrooms and pendant lights. There are also vintage photos tracing the site's history and significance.

Original equipment includes a traveling bridge crane along one ceiling and a diesel engine, forged in 1933, that provided mechanical power for icemaking and generated electricity for streetlights.

"They also found a trove of antique tools and railroad parts to display," Coalson said.

Besides offering exhibits and meeting space, the historic building is also designed to become a trail head for a greenway the city is planning in the near future.

The 7,000-square-foot plant is almost ready for a ribbon-cutting, Coalson said. "We should have a date sometime soon."

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augusta citizen
augusta citizen 07/05/11 - 05:06 pm
Well this should be a real

Well this should be a real tourist draw, cough.

gaj265 07/05/11 - 08:35 pm
Congratulations to the city

Congratulations to the city of Waynesboro and Burke County for finding a way to make use of this piece of history instead of demolishing it. This museum will remind us of how far we have come and the differences in living now and "back then". My family and I will certainly visit the ice plant when it is finished.

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 07/06/11 - 03:04 am
INteresting thing. That

INteresting thing. That generator takes us back to a time when American products dominated industry.

I think anything historical is a tourists draw.

Good idea, and thank God for greedy developers who bid too high to demolish this place.


happychimer 07/06/11 - 07:51 pm
Very very interesting. I know

Very very interesting. I know we will visit it.

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