Filed Under Businesses

Crystal Springs Ice Company

A natural springs has supplied water to the original ice plant and many businesses to follow.

By the mid-1920s, commercial ice production had shifted from ice harvesting along the Truckee River and Boca Dam to large mechanical ice production companies. Reno businesses and homes relied on these producers to supply their refrigeration needs; an “ice today” sign left in the window would notify the delivery man to leave a block in the ice box.

In 1929, local entrepreneurs George Kornmayer and Earl Compton hired contractor Steve Rastelli to dig a well and build the Crystal Springs Ice plant in the Southside Addition. Rastelli drilled through 100 feet of granite and discovered water at the 285-foot level. Completed in June 1930, the mission-style building was the first commercial enterprise on Center Street south of the Truckee River.

Kornmaker and Compton soon ran into financial problems, and before long, Rastelli found himself the primary stock holder and eventually the owner of the plant. Manufacturing 20,000 pounds of ice daily, he could store 800,000 pounds of surplus ice on the premises.

By 1931, the company introduced delivery of bottled water and also installed what could be considered Reno’s first water vending machine—a simple hose in front of the building where customers would fill up their bottles for free. That ended in 1935 when the health department made them install a sanitary vending machine.

Among other early customers, the Crystal Springs Ice Company supplied the courthouse, hospitals, jail, downtown casinos, and the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, whose tracks were located directly across the street. The company also had a side business of storing hunters’ venison in its cold storage room. Steve Rastelli added garages and remodeled the buildings until the complex grew to what it is today. He drilled another artesian well in 1945, when ice delivery was at its peak.

The mass production of refrigerators and home freezers after World War II brought the demise of ice delivery. In 1965, the Rastellis sold the ice division to Union Ice and shifted to the delivery and dispensing of water, along with the distribution of coffee, hot cups, and soups. After Steve Rastelli’s death in 1971, the family sold the bottled water business to Doug Hird, who upgraded the facility to meet all the modern sanitary requirements for bottled water.

Hird and his extended family ran the business until selling it in 2008. After a major renovation, the building reopened in 2012 as Brasserie Saint James, a restaurant and brewery using the water from the property’s celebrated artesian wells.

Images

Ice Company
Ice Company Seen here in the 1980s, the Crystal Springs Ice Company building underwent many expansions through the years, including the addition of a second artesian well in 1945. Source: Melissa Baker Date: 1980s
Early Success
Early Success A 1930 advertisement boasts of the company's successful opening weeks. Customers placed a green “ice card” in their windows to indicate how many pounds of ice to deliver. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: June 27, 1930
Water To Go
Water To Go A Crystal Springs Ice Company delivery truck hauls water bottles eastward on Second Street in the 1940s. In the background, the Senator Hotel stands in front of the Saviers Building and St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral. Source: Nevada Department of Transportation
The layout of the building in 1949
The layout of the building in 1949 The Sanborn Fire Insurance map of 1949 shows the configuration of the Crystal Springs Ice Plant that year. Portions of the building are color-coded by material: yellow for wood frame, pink for brick, and blue for stone. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Date: 1949
A midcentury view
A midcentury view Looking north along Center Street in 1951, the Crystal Springs Ice Company building appears on the left. Extending from the foreground are the tracks of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, which ran between Center Street and Holcomb Avenue. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1951
Surprise Visit
Surprise Visit A hot air balloon makes an unexpected appearance above the Crystal Springs building during the 1986 Reno Balloon Races. Source: Melissa Baker Date: 1986
Water vending
Water vending Coin-operated vending machines allowed customers to serve themselves with water from the company's artesian wells. Here, a customer uses the self-service option in 1986. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1986
New Partnerships
New Partnerships Along with his wife Heidi, Doug Hird's daughter Melissa and son-in-law Todd Baker joined in a partnership with Hird in 1984. The Bakers eventually bought out their father's share in 1999, remodeled the plant, drilled another artesian well, and added the familiar white paint with blue trim. Source: Melissa Baker
Tony Rastelli
Tony Rastelli Tony Rastelli retired in 1979 but he just could not stay away from the water business. During the 1980s one could easily spot Tony sporting a white, bushy beard, blue baseball cap and overalls held up by flashy red suspenders. Source: Melissa Baker Date: 1986
Brasserie Saint James
Brasserie Saint James After purchasing the building, Arthur Farley renovated the structure and transformed it into a popular Euro-style brasserie, using water from the property's artesian wells to craft custom beers. Source: Brasserie Saint James

Location

901 South Center Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Cindy Ainsworth, “Crystal Springs Ice Company,” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/127.