The Mystery of the Ice House, Defrosted

Ice House

Every week, Las Vegas native James Reza answers questions about life in Las Vegas for Ask a Native, his column in our parent publication Vegas Seven — and every now and again, we beam one up for the good starship DTLV. Do you have questions about Downtown Las Vegas that you’d like answered? Send them to AskaNative@VegasSeven.com.

Is the former Ice House Lounge on Main Street the same “old ice house” I keep hearing about?

While 2004 might seem old in Vegas Years, Downtown’s Ice House Lounge building fronting 650 S. Main St. is not “the old ice house.” Built in the pre-refrigeration era of the early 1900s to convert one of the West’s most precious resources (water) into another (ice), the old ice house was a much larger four-story facility and was set back from 600 S. Main St., adjacent to the railroad tracks. It is true, however, that the architecture of that old ice house inspired the design of the “new” Ice House.

Whereas the (original) ice house supplied blocks of ice to nearby communities and to cool shipments aboard the railroad, the Ice House supplied bottles of beer that could be kept chilly by means of a nifty strip of ice set into the bar top. The ice house was mothballed in 1983, and its hip descendant closed in 2009.

The ice house was earmarked as a Las Vegas historic preservation project long before the current Downtown rebirth, but it suffered several late-1980s vagrant-caused blazes that sadly scorched those plans, and it was ultimately demolished. The Ice House was an early entrant into modern Downtown, and to my memory, it was the first freestanding bar built in the area in decades.

When it opened in 2004, the Ice House was a comfortable, friendly pub and grub that quickly became the place to be—and a preview of things to come Downtown. But it wound up as that most unfortunate of semi-success stories: the business before its time. In its brief and bright heyday, the Ice House was packed with suits for happy hour most weeknights, and hosted hordes of hipsters during the legendary post-First Friday Get Back parties on its second-story balcony. I also once witnessed a pre-breakout show by the Killers there … one notoriously plagued by sound and electrical problems, but exciting anyway.

Thankfully, the Ice House did get a chance to take advantage of what it helped to create, just not as a bar. The property was recently purchased, underwent an interior remodel, and was repurposed as office space—one indicator that the future of Downtown isn’t all about the booze.

PHOTO BY GEOFF CARTER

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