Editor's Note: This article is from the Sausalito Historical Society, a volunteer organization which works to preserve our town's history and is an important Sausalito institution. Copyrighted material, reprinted courtesy of the Sausalito Historical Society. Illustration by Phil Frank from the celebration of the Ice House’s move to Bridgeway.
The downtown historical exhibit and visitor center known as the Ice House has a fascinating history of its own. With its extra thick walls stuffed with redwood bark, it rode the rails on Northwestern Pacific freight trains as a “cold cargo hold.” By the 1920s, its wandering days were over, and it was serving the iceboxes of the local citizenry from Caledonia St. In the 1980s it became an architectural office, before being donated to the city.
The Sausalito Historical Society and the Parks and Recreation Department vied to win the $1 per year lease the city was prepared to offer to a local organization, and the Historical Society won. A fundraising drive was held to finance the building’s move to its present site at 780 Bridgeway, across from Poggio at the corner of Bay Street. The move occurred in the middle of the night, and in 1999 the building opened as an information center for visitors, as well as an on-going exhibit of some of Sausalito’s colorful past.
Many visitors are fascinated by portraits and short biographies of local literary figures, including Jack London, Sterling Hayden, and even Sally Stanford. Others are drawn to photos of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marinship during World War II, and the bohemian houseboat scene of the 1960s and ’70s.
Besides the historical exhibits, visitors can purchase books, cards, CDs, DVDs, maps, guides and other useful items relating to Sausalito and its surroundings. One popular new item is the illustrated book “Houseboats of Sausalito” by Phil Frank. Sadly, Phil passed away during the creation of the book, but it was completed by his wife Susan and volunteers from the Sausalito Historical Society.
Ice House manager Doris Berdahl reports that the facility has received about 30,000 visitors in each of the past two years, some looking for luncheon recommendations, others for directions to Muir Woods, and others seeking parking meter change! Locals with an interest in Sausalito’s colorful past are always welcome, as well.
The Ice House is open to the public every day except Monday from 11:30 am – 4 pm. For information, call 415-332-0505.