ZILLAH — Decades ago, a small stone ice house near the city’s main street was an important destination, especially during the Yakima Valley’s hot, dry summers.

The ice house was built in 1901, before the city was incorporated, with materials left over from construction of the Christ Episcopal Church. Ice was cut from sloughs along the Yakima River in the winter and stored underground in sawdust.

“They would supply ice to people in the community through the year,” Zillah Mayor Scott Carmack said Friday.

Years later the ice house became a smoke house and a small fire burned part of its roof. A residence went up on the property and the site became derelict, Carmack said. The ice house and its history faded from view and memory.

It took a few years, but late Friday afternoon, the distinctive small and deep building with a new roof took its place as the centerpiece of Zillah Ice House Park at 109 Sixth St. Carmack thanked other city officials and staff during a ribbon-cutting ceremony after providing some of its history.

The process began a few years ago. The small corner property went up for sale, and Carmack approached the Zillah City Council about buying it. Members agreed, and replacing the roof became an Eagle Scout project. Carmack thanked Zillah Boy Scouts and leaders of Troops 595 and 553 at the dedication, city staff and wife Kristin, among many others.

Cleaning out the house brought nearly $400 in a yard sale. The ice house needed cleaning out, too, though it didn’t seem to hold anything worth selling. But on an October night, Carmack and Norman “Bird Dog” Tilley took a lantern and shovels and got started hauling trash out of the icehouse.

“Once we hit dirt, we found one of the saws they used to harvest ice from the Yakima River,” Carmack said. The saw and a small bottle are now displayed in a plastic case on one side of the ice house.

“After today, this belongs to the public,” he said during the dedication, which was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Thank you and welcome to the ice house.”

More than two dozen guests enjoyed pizza and lemonade after Carmack’s remarks, with many walking by the ice house to peer inside. Members of the Flute Troupe of Yakima performed in a wooden gazebo relocated by city staff to Ice House Park from a location near Interstate 82. Its rehabilitation was also an Eagle Scout project, Carmack said.

Reach Tammy Ayer at tayer@yakimaherald.com or on Facebook.

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