The Union Building was constructed in sections between 1905 and 1912 to provide cold storage facilities for fruit from the Hood River valley. The building was essentially an enormous refrigerator-- by my rough calculations almost 800,000 cubic feet. It was completely insulated with thick sheets of cork, and contained a water-powered ammonia compressor to both refrigerate the fruit for storage and make ice for the long train trip to markets back east. The fruit and whatever ice survived the trip would be sold in cities like New York and Chicago.
I recently toured this building with its current owner. The refrigeration apparatus has been drained of ammonia, but the machinery is still largely intact. It is remarkable for its scale and engineering-- think Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times." The eastern portion of this building was converted to law offices several years ago, and plans are afoot to renovate the rest of the building into commercial and residential space.
This photo must have been taken shortly after 1913, when Davidson Fruit got together with other growers to form the Apple Growers Association. Here's the same spot today.
Category: [Downtown Hood River]
Is this the building that got it's power from a small hydro housed in the building? It's water source was Indian Cr. and piped into town.
Dan on 3rd May 2011 @ 7:28am
Yes, there is a small electrical generator and a much larger ammonia compressor in the basement of the Union Building. Both were powered with water that came from near the CG Community College, via those wooden pipes you see along the Indian Creek Trail.
Arthur on 3rd May 2011 @ 8:04am
Our forefathers were pretty wise using "Green" energy when they could. Walked many a mile as a child on those wooden pipes, both the Union Building line and Powerdale's.
Jim Gray on 3rd May 2011 @ 5:05pm
My dad John L. Sheldrake talked some about his days icing rail cars at this facility....For the rest of his life he remained a railroad fan but he didn't have any particular love of ice.........
This is a GREAT web site and service!
Arlen Sheldrake on 12th May 2011 @ 6:57pm
I researched the water source for the building: The wood pipeline which goes along Indian Creek trail curves away from the trail and follows a contour on the hillside to get to Wilson Park, where there used to be a 1,000,000 gallon reservoir. The water from the reservoir then went through a pipe straight down the second street alignment, next to the stairs, through downtown, and made a left turn before the railroad tracks to get to the Union Building. It's listed on the downtown maps as a 12" wood stave pipe, though many parts were replaced over time. The first map which shows it is from 1905.
Arthur on 13th May 2011 @ 8:01pm
Enjoying the comments section. Lots of great facts added. Thank you.
Jim Mason on 18th May 2011 @ 6:45am
I remember when I was a kid, they called this "Terminal Ice."
Charlott on 1st July 2011 @ 7:46am
Great comments. If some want to step back in history..or for that matter in ICE, there are three Ice molds being used as planters on the west end of the building, south side of the Lawyers office. Bits of these large blocks of ice would last all the way to Chicago where people would take the left over ice and use it in their own homes. So Jim Dray, your dad did more than just load ice, he supplied refrigeration to homes on the other side of the country!
Jacquie on 21st March 2016 @ 1:20pm
Bill Pattison tells me the chimney from the old Crag Rats hut (at exit 62 above the Texaco station) is topped with an ice mold from the Union building.
Arthur on 21st March 2016 @ 3:42pm
Walking south on the wooden pipe from the empty Wilson reservoir was one of my favorite hikes in the '50s. Once I met a porcupine coming the other way. I yielded the right-of-way and jumped off.
There were "blue-bellied" lizards up there too, which "everybody" knew were "poison". I spotted a big fat one with muscular hind legs. I decided to catch him and reached around to grab him behind his neck. Horror of horrors! He spun around to face me, and opened his horrible mouth, which had a white, blistered surface--no doubt where he kept his poison. Another second and he would have leapt.straight at me, powered by those overdeveloped hind legs. I leapt back onto the pipe and scuttled for home. That was psychological warfare on his part, and total cowardice on mine.
Barbara Parsons on 14th December 2020 @ 8:37am