The loading dock of the old icehouse includes an overflowing Dumpster and other clutter. --Supplied photo
Lopez puts heat on icehouse
Rips ‘deplorable’ conditions at 49/Damen
By Tim Hadac
The owner of a century-old icehouse in the Back of the Yards neighborhood is feeling some heat this week from 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez.
Conditions at the facility at 4910 S. Damen were described as “deplorable” by Lopez, who responded by directing the Chicago Department of Sanitation’s 15th Ward superintendent to head over there to inspect and write tickets.
A photo provided by Lopez shows the building’s loading dock area to be generally unkempt. A Dumpster is the most egregious aspect, overflowing with garbage.
It was not always that way. Photos of the same loading dock area, coincidentally posted in several nostalgia-themed Facebook groups, show a tidy scene as late as 2015.
Built in 1920 by the Robey Ice Company (so named because Damen Avenue was called Robey Street until 1927), the icehouse for years was owned and operated by the Lang Ice Company.
Lang, in turn, was purchased by the Cincinnati-based Home City Ice Company.
Home City Ice serves 16 states and boasts annual sales in excess of $20 million. Founded in 1893, the company has grown in large part due to acquisitions of other ice manufacturers, such as Lang.
“My office contacted Home City Ice via email, social media and an 800 number [listed] on their website,” Lopez said. “To date, no response has been received. I have asked Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Chicago Department of Buildings to launch investigations into the conditions of this property.”
Lopez added he thinks it is “entirely unacceptable that conditions like these would be accepted by a local company touting $200 million in sales. We expect better. In the meantime, my office will be coordinating with Streets & Sanitation to address the garbage while we wait for a response from Home City Ice.”
The old icehouse no longer functions as a producer of ice. It is not listed as a location on the Home City website. The only Southwest Side location listed is the former Lang Ice Company headquarters at 3600 W. 59th St. What is not entirely clear is whether Home City uses it for storage or whether it is simply vacant.
Home City officials did not respond to a Greater Southwest News-Herald request for comment.
According to an online realty listing, the icehouse is for sale. The asking price is $600,000 for the 9,500 square-foot building and its footprint, which is about a third of an acre.
Reaction among neighbors was mixed.
“I don’t think this is the ice company’s fault,” said Ruben Escarpita. “I see people taking garbage from their homes and throwing it in that Dumpster. Why don’t they get ticketed by the City?”
Berta Gomez-Ilardo said regardless of what individual neighbors do “it’s still the responsibility of whoever owns that property to secure it and keep it clean. The City should take whatever actions are necessary to make that happen.”
Juanita Mercado added, “Don’t we have enough problems with rats in this neighborhood without all this trash and clutter at the icehouse? I have to clean up my property. Shouldn’t they have to clean theirs?”
Jason Sewell threw the blame back on Lopez.
“With all the crime we have in this neighborhood, including gang crime, why is [Lopez] running around, checking garbage cans and making a big deal out of a little mess?” he asked. “I think it’s because he’s failed at fighting crime, and things like this are one way to try and deflect people’s attention from that failure.”
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