As one of the earliest apple processing and storage facilities constructed in the Shenandoah Valley, the former C. L. Robinson Ice and Cold Storage plant in Frederick County holds a significant place within the history of the local apple industry in Virginia, and formed part of a thriving fruit processing and cold storage district north of downtown Winchester during the 20th century. The fertile Shenandoah Valley has been recognized as an ideal environment for apple cultivation since the colonial period. Apple trees were first cultivated in Frederick County during the late 18th century. By the early 20th century, a combination of capital investment and Winchester’s role as a regional rail hub spurred the rapid growth of the Valley’s apple industry. In 1902, Charles L. Robinson, an ice and coal dealer who relocated to Winchester from West Virginia, purchased the plant and became one of the city’s leading industrialists and civic figures. The growth of the C. L. Robinson Ice and Cold Storage Corporation paralleled the rise of the apple industry in Virginia, and by the mid-20th century, Winchester was widely recognized as the apple capital of the eastern U.S. The plant remained in Robinson family ownership following C. L. Robinson’s death in 1922. The building underwent several phases of expansion as the company modernized its operations.
Industrial in character, the C.L. Robinson Ice and Cold Storage Building occupies 3.74 acres of property. The building sections range from one to six stories in height and are primarily of brick and reinforced concrete construction. The building sections exhibit rectangular to trapezoidal ground plans and flat roofs with no overhang. The southern half of the facility, which originally functioned as the ice plant and company offices, features a variety of original and replacement metal frame windows. The northern half of the facility, which functioned as a series of voluminous and interconnected cold storage spaces, is mostly devoid of fenestration. In 1976, the Robinson Corporation merged with the Zeropack Company, a large Ohio-based apple processor. The company closed the plant in 1997, ending an era in Winchester’s industrial past.
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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark