1 King St.
Today: The Fort Sumter House condos
Yesterday: The Rampart Room (1954-1973)
On the menu: Cold-plate dinner of fruit cup, all-white meat chicken salad, tomato wedges, “pickle stix,” cheese biscuits and sherbet, $1.65 (July 26, 1957)
The management of Fort Sumter Hotel, where The Rampart Room in 1954 opened with Southern colonels illustrated on its tablecloths and Charleston murals hung on its walls, was highly attuned to summertime heat. The hotel never missed a chance to publicize its restaurant’s air-conditioning, which it promoted in an ad featuring a sweaty man loosening his necktie. “Feeling wilted?” it teased.
But the Fort Sumter crew wasn’t completely sympathetic to the cause of the South Carolina Ice Manufacturers’ Association, which in 1955 held a two-day convention at the hotel.
Throughout the 1800s, the term “manufactured ice” was used to distinguish factory-made ice from the natural ice harvested from New England ponds. “Manufactured ice is all smooth surfaces (and) square cakes with full corners,” a Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal correspondent wrote in a 1911 story explaining ice created by man.
Within a few decades, though, electric freezers ended the long-running debate. Once people could make ice at home, they weren’t interested in the divergent aromas of commercial ice types. Nor were they particularly inclined to buy ice by the bag, which is why South Carolina’s ice sellers banded together to hype the superiority of professionally produced cubes.
Association president G. Luther Rosebrock was intent on weaning fellow South Carolinians off “ordinary refrigerator-made ice,” The Evening Post reported in a story that was supposed to be accompanied by a picture of Rosebrock sipping iced coffee in The Rampart Room. (“Despite the fact that the temperature outside was almost the same as the ice in the glass,” noted the reporter sent to cover the January meeting.)
A Rampart Room server presented the drink. And the shoot went downhill from there.
“This ice is not manufactured ice!” Rosebrock cried. “I won’t have my picture taken using this ice!”
Although the server assured him that the ice was safe, and the photographer promised it would look like manufactured ice on the page, Rosebrook refused to touch his glass. Even after The Rampart Room’s “top officials” explained that the manufactured ice they’d ordered hadn’t yet arrived, Rosebrook remained distraught.
“This is the kind of thing we’re fighting against, and this is the only weapon we have,” he said. “I’d never hear the last of it if I allowed my picture to be taken with an ice cube of this sort.”
The Rampart Room closed in 1973. Rosebrook’s battle is carried on today by the International Packaged Ice Association.
— Hanna Raskin