One thing's for sure, the historic district of Old Town Alexandria has no shortage of cool and interesting homes and buildings. Some are historically significant, some take the crown for largest or smallest homes, while others may be locally known as having the status as the worst house in Old Town. Regardless of their claim to fame, the hundreds of places that make up our town are all unique in their own right and have a story to tell.

One such building is the small ice house located on the corners of Payne St. and Commerce St. As the name indicates and the brick lettering on the building's facade reinforces, this small structure was built in 1931 acted as one of the neighborhood ice houses for Old Town before in-home ice makers and freezers became commonplace. 

We've been keeping our eye on this neighborhood diamond in the rough for some time, just waiting for something to happen. Years ago it had fallen into disrepair, as seen in this photo from 2006.

Photo Credit: MarieMcC of Alexandria Daily Photo

Shortly after that photo was taken we heard that someone purchased the lot and ice house building, but shortly after beginning his renovations, he was shut down when he began work on exterior alterations before obtaining the necessary Board of Architectural Review approval.

Photo Credit: MarieMcC of Alexandria Daily Photo

After the owner ran afoul of the various permit/approval laws, the building sat vacant for some time. But a few weeks ago, after this long period of dormancy, we read that the ice house is planning to open soon as a neighborhood gelato bar and cafe.

It may be hard to dream about gelato in mid February (ok, maybe not that hard), but we did some anticipatory research. The plans call for limited indoor seating for around 12 with the option for up to 30 outdoor patrons arranged at dining tables in the "front yard" of the building.

We've long thought this would be a perfect neighborhood gathering spot for a relaxing night out, and we're thrilled that it seems like plans are underway to make this a reality. In my opinion, you really can't go wrong with gelato. I may not be a coffee drinker, but you'd better believe I'll make up for it with my gelato consumption.

We'll keep you updated with periodic progress details and photos as we approach the grand opening later this year (hopefully).

Do you have a neighborhood hot spot or hangout that you'd be lost without? Or maybe a location just begging for a little TLC and the right shop or eatery to open. Share your hood's favorites, we'd love to hear about it.

Comments 13


2/10/2012 at 12:51 PM
Ok - so they made him stop work because he was tearing the hideous, rotting plywood additions off without their approval? Sometimes the bureaucracy of these local government agencies never cease to amaze me. We're wanting to put a small garden shed outside within the next couple of summers and we're already dreading the red tape we're going to have to go through since we live in a historic district.

That's cool that the original oak cooler door was still there underneath all of that.
2/11/2012 at 9:11 AM
The regulations and red tape may feel a little onerous at times, but those protections in a historic district — which may seem strict at times — are often the only thing keeping a beautiful historic neighborhood with the thoughtfully restored details of homes like this one from turning into a neighborhood of teardowns, popups and incompatible materials, which isn't good for the overall value of anyone's house.

For the most part, historic preservation board or review staff are incredibly helpful and willing to sit down and take the time with owners that they can tell care a great deal to help you get things done.

Historic districts are often created voluntarily, because the people in the neighborhood want to protect that which drew them to the 'hood in the first place.

This guy appeared to be making good changes, but the system is in place because for example, once someone tears off some 120-year old tin fascia in the midst of good renovations and throws it away, it's not coming back.
2/10/2012 at 1:51 PM
So cool! What a great idea for that spot.

I just stumbled across your blog yesterday and I too, live in Old Town (a big white church on S Patrick between Prince and Duke that was converted into apartments in the 60s or 70s) and have loved seeing all of your posts on the homes in this area!
Hi K and welcome! We're so glad you found our blog and are so happy you're enjoying it. :-)
2/10/2012 at 10:50 PM
What a great little building!
I think it's just so cute and has so much potential!
2/12/2012 at 5:15 PM
New follower here! We live just outside Old Town. I love the ICE house. it would be a great place to hang out! I hope it works out!

Pinwheels and Peonies.
Hi and welcome! We're keeping our fingers crossed that something finally happens with this cute little building. Hopefully we'll see you there this summer. :-)
2/23/2012 at 8:47 AM
Can't wait for this! And speaking of a diamond in the sure to come by....very soon, I hear....and check out the Grape + Bean here in Rosemont! Although we loved the dear people who ran the market there for years, it was old and tired. It's a win-win for everyone.....she (the owner) gets a nice rental check and the neighborhood gets a great wine store/deli/coffee shop!
Love your blog, BTW!
5/7/2018 at 5:59 PM

Hello- I drove by this building for the first time this weekend and decided to google it. Your post comes up. Can’t tell what’s up with the building- do you have any updates? It looks like it was partially updated but maybe stalled/abandoned?

Bobby j
5/26/2018 at 5:32 PM

What is going on now with the place? We peeked in the window last weekend and it appears to have a commercial restaurant sink and a bit of renovation going on.

4/24/2021 at 11:40 AM

The Icehouse renovation is almost complete and will house MMM Goodies!! Homemade custard. It's really beautiful so if you love custard and homemade cookies... this is the place!!

Bill Rose
1/3/2022 at 3:42 PM

Would like to model this in HO scale.

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