Ice Well Restoration Project

The City of Alexandria is fortunate to count Gadsby’s Tavern’s ca. 1793 commercial size ice well as part of its historic properties. The history of Gadsby’s Tavern is, at its core, a story of American commerce and entrepreneurship. Community leaders, including those of the fledgling national government, met at Gadsby’s to conduct business and discuss the news of the day that arrived via ship in the busy port of Alexandria.

Page updated on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:23 AM

Restoration Project

The goals of the ice well restoration project were to preserve the historic feature and improve the visitor’s ability to experience the ice well. A restoration team, including the museum director, preservation architects, and engineers, created a design that addressed both these points. 

Approved by the City’s Board of Architectural Review, the design stabilized the ice well’s interior, reduced moisture accumulation, and improved the ventilation of the space.  During the planning process, great attention was paid to improving a visitor’s ability to access, view, and understand the rarity and historical importance of the feature.  New viewing windows showcase the ice well’s interior. Open-plan seating provide an inviting atmosphere to those walking by day or night. New engraved signage explain the significance of the ice well in the tavern's heyday and the role it played in creating a pleasurable experience for many of the travelers visiting Alexandria at the turn of the 19th-century.  The entire project was completed within the same footprint of the past ice well viewing area.

Project Schedule & Funding

The project was solely funded by private donations and grant monies.  No city money was used in this project.  The entire ice well restoration project was been divided into five phases:

Phase I - Develop design options for the restoration and preservation of the historic Ice Well.  (Completed, March 2008; Funded by the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society).

Phase II – Fully develop one design, with cost estimates, and work with the different agencies of City of Alexandria government to meet the proper code and safety requirements.  (Completed January 2009; Funded by grants and the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society).

Phase III – Receive final approval to proceed from the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review.  Create the construction documents, perform the appropriate structural and engineering tests, submit permit requests, and prepare a cost estimate for the proposal.  (Completed July 2010; Funded by grants and the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society)

Phase IV + V – Implementation of the restoration; Fabricate and install appropriate ice well signage. (Completed August 2013; 90% funding secured.)

The following foundations and organizations have provided financial assistance for this project:

  • Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society
  • General Assembly Appropriation, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • CLG Grant, Commonwealth of Virginia 
  • Save America’s Treasures Grant, National Park Service
  • 1772 Foundation
  • Roller-Bottimore Foundation
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Alexandria Association
  • Historic Alexandria Foundation
  • Private donations


The ice well restoration project has won three design awards - a testament to the value of the preservation of this historic landmark:

  • 2014 Gabriella Page Preservation Award - Preservation Virginia, Outstanding Preservation Project.
  • 2014 Merit Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation - Virginia Society AIA
  • 2013 Special Citation in Historic Resources - AIA DC