Sunday, September 03, 2006
serendipity in the form of Mr Morris
Today I went downtown to take pictures - I was a bit snarky because I couldn't find anyone to go with me. But thats neither here or there. I had meant to go to Capitol Street and putter around the King Edward. But, then i remembered that Kristin had asked for a photo of Jack's Tamale Shop, so I thought I would go there first. Took a few pictures there, then turned around.
Coming back over the bridge on Silas Brown, I saw an old empty warehouse office that I had always found interesting. So I parked at Mardi Gras and walked over and photographed the building. That had me facing S. Commerce Street. I remembered some talk of some possible revitilization of Commerce St, so I thought I'd walk up that way and see if I could find some interesting buildings.
I was walking along the unused rail spur, when I saw an interesting old building sort of tucked in behind some pecan trees. Most of the buildings in this area are abandoned warehouses, and this seemed to look about the same...but for the beautiful flower beds. Riots of marigolds, zinnias, wild climbing roses, and window boxes of vinca (I think).
I photographed the outside of the building, and peered through the windows at machinery still sitting inside. Then I headed further down the streen taking pictures.
On my way back up the street, I saw that an older gentleman had arrived at the building with the flowers, and he was watering. I crossed over to tell him that I had taken pictures of the building, and how much I had enjoyed his pretty flowers. It seemed like a good thing to do - someone had obviously put a lot of work in on those flowers.
It turned out that he was Mr Morris, whose family had owned the Morris Ice Company (which is what the building was). Mr Morris showed me his Burpee Marigolds, and his Zinnias, and various flowers. And then, by golly, he let me into the building to take pictures! I was pretty excited, that is an amazing stroke of good luck (or possibly a little good karma even, from my trip to compliment a gardener on his flowers)
Mr Morris told me that this was the second Morris Ice building. The first had been a bit further to the south, but still on Commerce Street. It was next to a lumber yard that was owned by the people who built the Kind Edward Hotel. The steam engines in the ice plant were fueled by wood chips from the lumber yard. In 1923 the lumber yard caught fire, and the ice plant went along with it. The Morris Ice Company rebuilt a bit further up the street, and reopened in 1924.
The compressors are from 1924, but the back up generators went in later - 1934. Morris Ice Company's biggest customer was the railroad (remember the now unused rail spur in the front that I mentioned earlier?) - in the 20's there wasn't a highway system in Mississippi, and most food was shipped by rail. The railroads bought ice to refrigerate their perishable food shipments - fruits, vegetables, meats.
With the advent of the interstate highway system, areas that depeneded on railroads like Commerce St started to go into decline. The ice company finally shut its machines down and closed its doors in 1988.
Mr Morris keeps an office upstairs, and he has some real-estate to look after. He also has his flowers to care for. We discovered that we both attend St. A's - small world! When I left, Mr Morris send me away with a bouquet of his Burpee marigolds. What a great guy! And what a wonderful treat, to get to photograph the interior of the building and hear his stories.
all photos from the Morris Ice Company can be found here