Support Local Journalism, Join the SA Current Press Club.

Current 25: The rise, fall, and rise (?!) of the South Texas ice house 


click to enlarge 1155351.jpg

There’s a benevolent breeze blowing across the asphalt patio at the Sanchez Ice House. “Neon Moon” is blaring from the jukebox, and as it muffles the sound of traffic from I-35 overhead, it’s almost welcome. A few couples sit scattered at scarred picnic tables; the condensation from their buckets of Bud and Miller Lite drips unrelentingly on the pavement below. Dancing won’t begin on the concrete slab that is the center of this space until later in the evening, but it’s never too early to reminisce about the roots of such San Antonio institutions. Here at South San Saba and Guadalupe Street is one of the last of a dying breed: a true Texas ice house.

According to Rhett Rushing, folklorist at the Institute of Texan Cultures, the first commercial ice-making machine in Texas (and only the second in the U.S.) was smuggled from Mexico into San Antonio through a federal, Civil War blockade. German settlers who had brought both a thirst for beer and the knowledge to brew it to Texas with them weren’t the only citizens to appreciate this new development. As stations built to store and distribute blocks proliferated across San Antonio, and the