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Rapid City Ice Company & Rapid City Photos

Submitted by Larry Bullis

In the days before homes had refrigerators, people kept food cool in ice boxes. This required a supply of ice during the summers. In Rapid City, this need was met by Issac J. Gray, who founded the Rapid City Ice Company, later known as Rapid Crystal Ice. Mr. Gray owned the small lake that now sits in front of the Dakota Cement plant in northwest Rapid City. During the winters he and his sons cut blocks of ice from the pond and stored them in an insulated warehouse. Since South Dakota winters can be brutally cold, there was a nearly endless supply of ice during that time of year. As time progressed, mechanical refrigeration made it possible for the company to manufacture ice at any time of the year. After World War II, the business rapidly declined as nearly every home replaced its ice box with a refrigerator.

The picture below was taken around 1910. The people in the photo were the children of Isaac J. Gray. From left to right are Nellie, Clarence, Ernest, and Lydia. Nellie later married William Maude. Clarence was a machinist and developed a gasoline-powered saw for cutting ice from the pond. Ernest eventually took over management of the ice company. Lydia taught school in Quinn and married Ira Bullis, a mail carrier, and later married Scenic rancher William Bohling. The photo was likely taken in a then-vacant lot near Columbus and Third Streets. Isaac Gray owned a home just at the bottom of Reservior Hill. The white houses in the background were on the south side of Quincy Street between Second and Third.

Ice wagon with Gray family

The photo below is a commercial post card taken prior to the 1928 construction of the Alex Johnson Hotel in downtown. The Gray residence may be the one at the extreme lower right corner. The same houses in the above picture are visible here. Note also the barn on the south side of Quincy Street shows up in both pictures.

Rapid City

The next photo shows an unknown young man posing with his camera at the top of Reservior Hill. The hotel dominates the background and the cars on the street below appear to be from the late 1930's or early 1940's. Note that Columbus Street had been extended and the block bound by Columbus, Quincy, Third, and Fourth is now completely built up. The same barn visible in the first two pictures is now surrounded by houses. The Duhamel Building sits to the right and slightly in front of the hotel, and serves to locate the corner of Sixth and St. Joseph Streets.

Rapid City and unknown man

The final image dates to 1936. Isaac Gray had died two years earlier and his son Ernest, in the white shirt and necktie, was running the ice plant. Note the 3-digit telephone number. The exact location of this plant is not known.

Rapid City Ice Plant






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