6. J. M. Horton Ice Cream, 302 Columbus Avenue
New York’s upscale Columbus Avenue is lined with yogurt, gelato, and traditional ice cream shops that cool off sweltering Upper West Siders; Venchi and Van Leeuwen are some of the fancier outposts. A ghost sign remains of a pioneer in the ice cream sweepstakes.
James Madison Horton founded J. M. Horton Ice Cream in 1870. By 1916, Horton supplied more than half of the city’s ice cream, producing more than three million gallons of the confection each year. Horton operated six stores in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn. Its ads called the company the “largest manufacturers of ice cream in the world.”
The Horton store on the Upper West Side opened in 1890. Its triangular pediment high above the street still displays the company name.
“Most building construction on Columbus Avenue followed the arrival of the Ninth Avenue el in 1881,” notes the New York Times, “and the fancy pediments on many former factory buildings were originally intended as rooftop advertisements, to be seen by riders on the trains passing overhead but are all but invisible from the sidewalk below.”
Customers could purchase ice cream from its street-level store but much of Horton’s business came from supplying hotels, restaurants, trains and steamships. Daytonian in Manhattan notes a Horton’s ad that boasts an impressive list of flavors: “Biscuit glace, tortoni, praline, tutti frutti, pudding nesselrode glace, stanley glace, diplomate plombiere and mousse cafe, marrons, mill frutti, cardinal, roman and lalia rookh punch.”
The Columbus Avenue address served as one of Horton’s factory buildings where ice cream was made by hand. As competitors switched to mechanized construction, Horton’s factory became obsolete. Horton was absorbed by the Pioneer Ice Cream Division of Borden in 1930.