National Ice Cream Day 2015: Refreshing look at Detroit’s ice cream history

When it comes to Detroit history, every one remembers enjoying a Sander’s hot fudge cream puff with their smooth vanilla ice cream in the center. Many sources claim Fred Sanders invented the ice cream soda, a popular soda fountain standard consisting of syrup, ice cream (originally heavy cream) and carbonated soda (or pop as we like to say in Michigan). That claim is up for debate. You can read more about Who invented to ice cream soda on Stacy Conradt’s blog post here.  

While Sander’s is etched in our memory, can you recall any other well known brands? How about Sealtest, Velvet, Detroit Creamery? Please post any of your old favorites in the comments section!

In this post, we will take you down memory lane with photos of how ice cream was dished out in Detroit’s past. Why not beat the heat on this muggy day and celebrate National Ice Cream Day at your favorite ice cream parlor.


Content and photo credit

Most photos and descriptions are from the Detroit Public Library, digital collections.


Sander’s Palace of Sweets

Sanders Palace of Sweets

Interior view of Sanders’ Palace of Sweets. Rococo-style interior has columns and decorative moldings. Man stands at scale behind counter on right; products displayed in glass cases and containers. Printed on front: “Sanders’ Palace of Sweets, Detroit, Mich.” Printed on back: “Sanders’ Palace of Sweets, 141-143 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich., located in the heart of the shopping district, is not only known as the most beautiful store of its kind in the world but has the distinction of being the first to originate ice cream soda, now one of America’s most popular soft drinks. Sanders’ celebrated confections have a reputation second to none. Published by A.C. Dietsche, Detroit, Mich. and Frankfort, Germany. Made in Germany.” Handwritten on back in upper right corner: “8/16/12.”

See more: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A139174#sthash.VOQw0DL5.dpuf

Sanders Pavilian of Sweets ExteriorView of Sanders Pavilion and Van Baalen’s Loan Office on Michigan Avenue, with other businesses and a view of the street. Recorded in glass negative ledger: “D/Streets-Woodward & Michigan.”

See more: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A157635#sthash.tfvPhwtb.dpuf


Had to include photo of “Little girl with ice cream cone in the zoological park” Detroit, MI from Library of Congress collection as I love this stroller. Dating myself here but this is the same type of stroller my sisters and I were pushed around town in. Anyone else? This photo was published in July 1942 by photographer Arthur S Siegel.

July 1942 photo of girl eating ice cream at Detroit Zoo. Photo by Arthur S. Siegel. Library of Congress
July 1942 photo of girl eating ice cream at Detroit Zoo. Photo by Arthur S. Siegel. Library of Congress

Riopelle St Ice Cream VendorIce Cream Wagon

Residential neighborhood on Riopelle St., at corner, man in hat, tie and white apron pushing an ice cream wagon with three children next to him, one and two-story wood-framed houses on brick-paved street, a woman standing on her steps, a cafe down the street. Recorded in glass negative ledger: “D/Streets-Riopelle.” Emulsion lifting from plate.

See more at: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A158259#sthash.471ts7Z1.dpuf


Beltramini and RushBeltramini and Rush, caterers and ice cream manufacturers

View of tearoom in Beltramini and Rush. Rows of round tables are covered with tablecloths; glass case in foreground displays doughnuts and bread. Second glass case displays candy dishes. Staircase and balcony in back of room. Printed on front: “Tea room, Beltramini and Rush, caterers and ice cream manufacturers, 292 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich., 17879.” Handwritten on back in upper right corner: “8/14/13.”

See more:  http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A138935#sthash.2NivUvur.dpuf


Bob-Lo Ice Cream CastleIce Cream Castle, Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park

View of Ice Cream Castle refreshment stand at Bob-Lo Amusement Park. Stand resembles a castle and is decorated with replicas of ice cream cones.

See more:  http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A144695#sthash.FgIjCNdB.dpuf


Bates Ice Cream and W.H. Dewey Ice Cream

Bates Ice Cream & Oyster HouseLooks like corner of Woodward and Adams was the site of two ice cream and oyster shops.

“View of the Bates Ice Cream & Oyster House on the corner of Woodward and Adams. Recorded in lantern slide ledger: “D/Restaurants-Bates, corner Woodward and Adams.”

See more at:

http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A156322#sthash.2QaNmL9X.dpuf

Dewey Ice Cream & Oyster HouseFront and side view of W.H. Dewey Ice Cream & Oyster House, a two story wood frame building on Woodward and Adams, with a view of the street. Ice cream truck just visible on side street. Handwritten on albumen cabinet card front: “C.C. Randall, Randall Studio Building, 106 Miami Ave., Detroit.” Also have print from negative. Handwritten on albumen cabinet card front: “Vignette.” Typed on label on cabinet card back: “Northwest corner of Woodward and Adams Avenues, the site of Fyfe’s Building. This photograph shows the old Bates Restaurant. Picture taken in the ’80s.” Handwritten oncabinet card back: “N.W. corner of Woodward and Adams Aves. Just torn down and new building being erected (March 1893). After this picture was taken the building was converted into a restaurant. The old [?] restaurant [?]. 420. 122. 6063. 69.” Recorded in glass negative ledger: “D/Streets-Woodward & Adams.”

See more : http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A157617#sthash.e18sqRnF.dpuf


Roseville CreameryRoseville Creamery Co

Storefront of Roseville Creamery Co. Dairy Bar in Center Line, Michigan. Recorded in lantern slide ledger: “M/Localities-Centerline.” – See more at: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A161224#sthash.0fMnI10e.dpuf


Hometown History Tours is your go-to guide for all things Detroit.

Click here for our 2015 tour schedule. 


Old style soda parlor

Old style Detroit soda parlorInterior view of drugstore, with tobacco counter on left, pharmacy at back and soda parlor on right, name on cash register appears to read, “J.M. Hackett Co.” Recorded in glass negative ledger: “M/Interior decoration.” – See more at: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A161763#sthash.UehEGktY.dpuf


Vendor near Union Trust BldgStreet Vendor selling ice cream and other sundries

Today the Guardian Building, an art deco masterpiece stands at Griswold and Congress. The Union Trust building pictured stood at this location prior to the building of their much more lavish headquarters.

Union Trust Building at the corner of Griswold and Congress with street vendor across street selling cigars, tobacco and ice cream sodas. Recorded in glass negative ledger: “D/Buildings-Union trust.” –

See more at:” http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A157882#sthash.uIQcqXHI.dpuf


Sealtest Ice CreamSt. Aubin Street luncheonette serving Sealtest ice cream

View of two-story wooden-frame building with storefront located at 2237-2243 St. Aubin, parcel 20, in the area bounded by Dequindre/St. Aubin/Antietam/Waterloo, site 2-S-12.

Sign on building: “Luncheonette, sodas, Sealtest ice cream.” Building has decorative shingles on front gable and rounded arch windows on second level.

A portion of building has brick facade; several doors lean against building. Handwritten on front: “Par. 20, 2237-43 St. Aubin, 9-5-50.”


Velvet band Detroit CreameryVelvet brand ice cream (Detroit Creamery) billboard 

In addition to the ice cream signage, did you know Budweiser spells temperance. Interesting, eh? 

View of one-story brick commercial building on corner; two large billboards on roof: “Velvet brand ice cream, made by Detroit Creamery, cor. Cass and Gd. River, finest in the world, sold by best dealers all over the city; Budweiser spells temperance.”

Business on corner: “Shattock the motorcycle man.” Two men stand in building entrance; two men stand on sidewalk. Recorded in glass negative ledger: “D/Signs & signboards.” – See more:” http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A159596#sthash.6lIzdxUh.dpuf


Model Dairy DetroitModel Dairy across from Recreation Park

Model Dairy, located at 100 Brady Street, across from Recreation Park. Owned by T.A. Watkins. Barn in back, two horses in yard, sign in front of house advertising “Pure hand made ice cream.” Handwritten on back: “Across from Brady Street from entrance to Recreation Park. Model Dairy, 100 Brady St., T.A. Watkins, prop., 1879.” – See more: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A149895#sthash.1HwWTjRM.dpuf

Info on Recreation Park

http://www.michmarkers.com/startup.asp?startpage=L1426.htm


Orphans Day Belle IsleOrphans Day at Belle Isle Park

View of chaperones, nuns and children on lawn in front of athletic pavilion during a 1911 trip for orphans to Belle Isle. Children eat plates of ice cream and cake.

The excursion was sponsored by the Wolverine Automobile Club. Handwritten on back: “Tours–Orphans Day outing, 1911, on Belle Isle.” – See more: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A188014#sthash.dWCPjcK4.dpuf


La Mesa CorktownLa Mesa Restaurant, Corktown, serving Sealtest ice cream

View from across intersection of two-story brick building adjacent to two-story building with shingle siding and curtained windows located at 1350 Brooklyn, parcel 119, in Corktown. Signs in windows and building: “Sealtest ice cream, sodas.” Handwritten on front: “Par. 119, 1350 Brooklyn, S.E. cor. Porter, 9-11-56.”

1956 City Directory lists La Mesa Restaurant at 1350 Brooklyn. – See more at: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A139794#sthash.pmKSjwM4.dpuf


TrumbellTrumbull Confectionery serving Polar brand ice cream

View of one-story brick building with storefront located at 1054 Trumbull parcel 34, in Corktown. Signs in storefront window: “Confectionery, fountain service, sodas, Polar brand ice cream, cigars, candy.” View of residence at 1050 Trumbull; three-story front-gabled brick house; sign on porch of house: “Sleeping rooms.” Man stands on corner.

Handwritten on front: “Par. 34, 1054 Trumbull, 8-30-56.” – See more at: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A140537#sthash.8heqB1Wi.dpuf


Detroit CreameryDetroit Creamery

Photo of Detroit Creamery manufacturer of Velvet brand ice cream. Detroit Publishing Company photo from 1905 – 1915, photo courtesy of Library of Congress


Vernor's Pharmacy and Soda FountainVernor’s Pharmacy

A look at Detroit’s ice cream history wouldn’t be complete without including Vernor’s Ginger Ale where the Boston Cooler was born. Named after Boston Boulevard, a Detroit street, Boston Coolers are made by blending a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream (originally heavy cream) and Vernors ginger ale. 

View of James Vernor store; four-story brick commercial building with storefront. Signs on building: “James Vernor, Vernor’s ginger ale.” Illuminated Vernor’s ginger ale sign over entrance. Printed on front: “The home of ‘Vernor’s ginger ale’ Detroit, Mich.” Printed on back: “The home of Vernor’s ginger ale, 33 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich. The sign has eight hundred and sixteen lamps constantly moving, filling the glass with the finest drink ever. They sell the extract, any one can make the ale.”

See more at: http://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A139096#sthash.7AIfKlLI.dpuf


Content and photo credit

Most photos and descriptions are from the Detroit Public Library, digital collections.


Hometown History Tours is your go-to guide for all things Detroit.

Click here to check out our 2015 tour schedule


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