It's All About the Bandos...Right?

Photos date from May, 2013.

Please excuse my sarcastic title for this post, I'm just poking fun at those who now refer to abandoned buildings as "bandos" for short, which I find to be gratingly crass. It makes it sound like you only see Detroit as a playground to be used for amusement, its abandoned buildings as mere photo opportunities, commodities; something to be collected as fast as possible like Pokemon, so that you can retain your status in the "cool club" by being up on all the latest, most-secretest bandos; that by posting photos from them you can flaunt your coolness to others in a bid for their envy. Going into abandoned buildings is glamorous, and we have catchy slang words to prove it...right? Yuck.

Anyway, the former Arctic Ice Cream Co. plant sits kitty-corner from the popular "Crow Manor," and fronts right on Grand River Avenue. In its ruined state, it looked to my eyes like a small cold storage warehouse, with a rather snazzy-looking front office building on the corner. As it turns out I practically looked up from my computer while writing this post to see that the building is currently under demolition..."Detroit Rises!"

Or is it "Detroit Razes?"

The c.1921 Sanborn maps of the area (see below) show this complex of buildings partially constructed, and labelled as the Arctic Ice Cream Co., while the General Ice Delivery Co. (at 1433 Sycamore & Trumbull) occupied another portion of the current footprint. A "coal pile" then stood where the current office entrance was; at the corner of Grand River and Sycamore. As you can see by the photo above, the lobby to the company offices was architecturally appealing.

Apparently there was once a large "market house" on the next block north as well:

Click for full size
With the Sanborn map and some quick Googling, I was able to learn the addresses of the building, 3301-3383 Grand River (507 Grand River, pre-1921), which in turn facilitated deeper Googling. Usually this is how I begin the course of researching any unknown building—find out either the company name or its true address, and the Sanborn map is usually the best source for both if they aren't visible on the building itself. Google Books is the next stop, followed by the Detroit Free Press archives at and Proquest. There are a million other more specific avenues that can be pursued as alternatives or to delve deeper, but that is my basic formula for starting research on buildings in Detroit. I have a few parlor tricks too, such as teasing info out of the "Search Inside This Book" feature on, and of course there are the brick-and-mortar archives when sh*t gets serious.

The address shown in this c.1936 photo below is 3333 Grand that time it was the main office of the Detroit Creamery Company:

Image from Detroit Historical Society

I entered the brutalized ruins of the Arctic Ice Cream plant from the rear, off Trumbull Avenue, which was looking much more disheveled than its frontage along Grand River:

It so happens that the Arctic Ice Cream Co. still exists, and there's a website with a brief history of its founding in 1908. Even the Archaeology Department of Michigan State University has a small webpage talking about the Arctic Ice Cream Co. in reference to finding one of their milk bottles during a dig, and it was then that I realized that I had one too, sitting on a shelf behind me in fact:

Anyway...Arctic Ice Cream was founded by Alfred F. Stephens and his younger brother Charles E. Stephens after Alfred had left the Detroit Creamery Co., where he had worked from 1899 to 1907, according to Clarence M. Burton's book The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922. Charles had worked at the Seamless Steel Bath Tub Company. They both came from a rural upbringing in Oakland County, and moved to the city to seek their fortunes. At the time Burton was writing about them in 1922, Arctic was the second-largest ice cream maker in Detroit.

According to the Polk's Directory for 1921, the Absopure Ice Cream Co. was located just five blocks inbound from here, at 2457-2475 Grand River, but that building is now demolished. Absopure also dealt in coal and coke, and today deals in bottled water. I discussed them more in my post about the Park Avenue Building downtown.

An article in the October 1, 1911 Free Press heralded the opening of this new factory:

Image from Detroit Free Press, via Proquest
According to various trade periodicals I found via Google Books, Arctic was already building additions to this plant in 1915 and again in 1919. They also had either ice cream factories or milk condensing plants in various counties across the southern half of Michigan, including in Grand Rapids (on Market Avenue in 1919), in Grand Ledge, in Fenton, and in Hastings. Arctic also had milk receiving stations at Richmond, Birch Run, Shear's Station, Redford Station, and Shotke Station.

Burton noted that the company employed an average of 150 men in 1922, while operating 45 delivery trucks and 35 wagons. The Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record reported that in 1922-1923 Arctic built a fleet garage and mechanic shop a few blocks to the north of here, at 3940 Gibson Street, which is no longer standing.

They bought the N.H. Winans and Sons Dairy of Lansing in 1928.

Arctic handled 30,000 gallons of milk per day and produced 8,000 gallons of ice cream per day during the May to October season, Burton went on to write. Combined with the output of their other plants, Arctic managed to ship ice cream nationally.

The book Refrigeration: A History, by Carroll Gantz even explains that Arctic Ice Cream of Detroit had a hand in developing new technology in the refrigeration field, back in 1924. It said that Frigidaire and Nizer Laboratories Co. adapted home refrigeration to ice cream dipping cabinets, which previously had used a brine mixture of salt and ice, much like the refrigerator railcars that were developed here for the Hammond-Standish Co. The first electric ice cream cabinets used alcohol-based "flooded" type systems that circulated the coolant past the ice cream cans by electric motor.

Image from Detroit Free Press, via Proquest
Detroit played a major part in the development of refrigeration technology during the 19th and 20th centuries—one of our most overlooked historical legacies. I explore this rich history in several other posts:

'Welcome to the Jungle' ~or~ 'Reefer Madness'
Lambs to the Slaughter
How Detroit and the Yoopee Used to be Connected
Acme Jackson
The "Cathedral of Refrigeration"

Another lavishly illustrated advertisement I found in the April 22, 1928 Detroit Free Press sings the praises of Arctic's famous "Rubyette" ice cream topping, apparently a delicacy for only those of the most sophisticated and discriminating tastes, alongside photos of the plant's wondrous machinery. I recommend clicking the LINK to view it in a .pdf page; it's quite the ad, since it also marked the company's 20th birthday.

Arctic was bought up in the 1930s by the Detroit Creamery Co., but retained its distinct name. I suspect, based on this company website with the same name, that they eventually relocated to Trenton, New Jersey (which says they started making ice cream in 1931), and continue a wholesale distribution business to this day.

I can't remember how or where I made the connection originally, but I was initially under the impression that this building was actually the "Westside Cold Storage Co.", and an entry on seems to back that up. However it also says that Westside Cold Storage was not founded until 1982, which might be when they took over this building. The company was listed at 3300 Trumbull (which also points to this structure), and they apparently still operate today in some form, out in Clinton Township.

Looks like there's a bit of a marsh forming up here on the roof...and you can see the Trumbull Avenue Presbyterian Church (now Pilgrim Church) across Grand River, which I explored in an older post:

There had been a recent fire in here when I visited in early 2013, the largest building had been blackened inside quite thoroughly, causing the cork insulation to shuck off of the walls:

Many of its blocked-up windows had been bashed in as well, leaving entire walls exposed to the streetscape of Grand River Avenue:

Maybe I don't know the whole story, but it seems to me that this old place would be an absolute slam-dunk for a loft conversion, seeing as it sits next to the hip and highly desirable Woodbridge neighborhood just outside of downtown, or even a commercial space. So I don't understand why it's just being torn down; these two buildings along Grand River were in sound shape as I recall; they're architecturally appealing, and arguably historic.


I mean sure, we can tear down those nasty old windowless buildings in the rear along Trumbull (and put a parking lot), but you could easily open up the blocked windows on these 1920s structures in front and make them very attractive.

Then of course the gigantic roof could be used as a futbol field, or a biergarten, or whatever's hip now.

Not a bad view either.

Speaking of the view, the Ilitch-controlled Motor City Casino looms large a few blocks away. Keep in mind it was originally the old Wagner Baking Co. factory, and was readily converted from being a huge, aging brick beast into...a UFO or whatever the hell it is now.

The former Detroit Casket (or is it Gasket?) Co., another old building converted to modern uses, stands on the other side of Ash Street:

I visited Arctic right in the middle of the scrapping and graffiti craze, when metal prices were still high and it was cheaper for kids to buy a plane ticket here to paint than it was to pay a vandalism ticket back home in Philly or wherever, before Pope Duggan the First initiated the buff in Detroit...

Another unique aspect of the view from this building was the fact that you could see all of glamorous Midtown, or "The 7.2" spread out before you:

Nevermind that pesky government housing tower on the left...

The "Cultural Center"...I think that is WDET's or WRCJ's transmitter tower:

The Grand-Trumbull Market House is visible here, still occupying the triangular block immediately to the north (now a liquor store and Family Dollar), while the old Trinity Episcopal Church stands powerfully at the top of the frame:

I explored Trinity Episcopal Church in another post.

Of course they started demolishing the architecturally appealing part first...that way in case the local preservationists try to get a court injunction to stop the demolition and save the building, there will be nothing left to save:

No more ice cream for you.

Sanborn maps for Detroit, Vol. 2, Sheet 27, (1921)
The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Vol. 4, by Clarence Monroe Burton, William Stocking, Gordon K. Miller, p. 851-852
"New Plant of Arctic Ice Cream Co.," Detroit Free Press, October 1, 1911, p. B7
Polk's Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory (1921), p. 2403
American Machinist, Vol. 43, No. 17 (1915), p. 78
American Architect and Architecture, Vol. 115, No. 2258 (1919), p. 10
The Ice Cream Trade Journal, Vol. 16 (1919), p. 67
Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record, Vol. 30 (1922), p. 21
Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record, Vol. 26 (1920), by Frank E. Carter, p. 36
Iron Age, Vol. 110 (1922), p. 1668
24th Annual Report of the Dairy and Food Commissioner for the State of Michigan, (1917), p. 124
Refrigeration: A History, by Carroll Gantz, p. 100-101
Advertisement, Detroit Free Press, April 20, 1923, p. 5
"The Eighth Wonder!" Detroit Free Press, April 22, 1928, gravure supplement


  1. I never got this one. I know about other places though, so we should have traded bandos, but alas it's too late now.

    1. Is there actually a whale penis cannery in Detroit that I have not known about all this time?

    2. Yeah and you won't believe the history. Another thing Detroit played a pivotal role in historically!

  2. Have you thought of linking all of your pieces with an existing or new map-based app? There are a few existing map-based travel and history apps, this might provide more context for most people not familiar with exact locations.

  3. Arctic Ice Cream founder and refrigeration pioneer Alfred F. Stephens' large house, named by him as "Coventry Crest", is still standing on top of a hill on the east side of Woodward between Long Lake and Hickory Grove in Bloomfield Hills. It was bought by the Roeper School in 1946 and is still in use by them today. Despite it's English manor style look, it was built of steel and concrete, with steel doors between every room, for an owner who was terrified of fire. When I was a student there in the '70s the original marble-lined wall refrigerators from the 1920s were still in daily use.

    Also, the market building you picture directly north of this building was once one of Detroit's small neighborhood farmer's markets, operated by the city's Dept. of Markets. The Chene-Ferry Market on the east side, still standing in partial ruin, was similar. My mother and her brother, who were raised nearby on Brooklyn, both worked in the Trumbull market as teenagers.

    1. This was my Grandfathers building as was Roeper School. This is a sad day.


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