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The Ladies of the Ice House

By Steefenie Wicks

Four women who have worked at the Sausalito Historical Society’s Visitor’s Center since the idea was conceived, have taken on the role of good will ambassadors for the city. Doris Berdahl, Robin Sweeny, Bea Seidler and Julie Warren have all been involved with this Sausalito Historical Society project since its opening at the Village Fair on Bridgeway, in 1993. As they make the first impression on most visitors and tourists, they are informative and entertaining and most helpful to the 30,000 people who walk across the entrance of the Ice House each year..

All of these  ladies have been part of Sausalito‘s history for the past 50 years.  Doris is from Dan Diego and Robin grew up in New York City and was elected mayor of Sausalito four times. Bea relocated here from the Midwest, and managed Sally Stanford’s successful campaign for Mayor. Julie, the youngest of the group, was born in Sausalito and grew up here while her father was Mayor.   Julie speaks both French and Spanish and delights when she can chat with visitors from these locations as they are so pleased to be able to communicate in their own languages.

They all agree that one of the most asked questions by visitors is, “where can I find a good place to eat?” The answer is anywhere in town because all of the restaurants are wonderful.  But because these ladies aim to please, they can suggest a place where you can get lunch if your layover in town is 15 minutes or 45.

There are other docents at the Ice House, which is open from 11:30-4: PM each day.  But this column will focus on the four “founders.”

Doris recalls that this entire project came about because of the Sausalito Centennial.

She explains that one of the owners of the Village Fair, who considered himself a history buff, heard about the project and wanted to participate.   Because he and his partners were in the process of selling the building, they offered the Historical Society a location on the 4th floor.  This area was big enough to set up an exhibition. There was a retail space adjacent to the exhibition area and it was decided by the Historical Society’s board that they would sell items to help support Historical Society projects.

The Village Fair location was opened to the public and tourists alike in 1993.  Bea Seidler remembered that somewhere in her vast files she has one of the original invitations sent out to announce the event.

All of the ladies agree that many things soon started to go wrong at the Village Fair location. When it rained, the roof leaked on the exhibits and some of the photos on display were almost ruined.  It was after one particularly bad winter that the Sausalito Historical Society’s Board decided to look for a new location. 

Enter Michael Rex and the Ice House.

Most of the residents in town will remember that the Sausalito Historical Society and the Parks and recreation Department had to vie to win the $1 per year lease on the building known as the Ice House.  Rex, a local architect, had used the structure as an office for over 13 years and events in his business and personal life swayed him to pass the building on in hope of keeping it in Sausalito and being able to have the public benefit from its presence.  With the help of the Mayor Amy Belser the Sausalito Historical Society became the proud owners of the structure.

Robin mentions how when tourists from other countries visit the building they are surprised to find out its history because many of them have no idea of how ice was stored or moved.

Doris talks about the process of moving the Ice House to its present location.  One of the Historical Society’s dedicated members, Phil Frank, launched a campaign to move the Ice House.  The idea was to ask each resident for a donation of just $1 to help pay for the move.   This drive was very successful and the residents of Sausalito were more than generous in their personal contributions to see this project happen.

In 1996, Doris, Robin, Bea and Julie were on hand for the opening of the Ice House and the location of their new Sausalito Visitor’s Center.

When each of the ladies is asked about her favorite memories of the Ice House,  they all have the same answer: their faith in human beings is always reinforced while working there. Each can tell the story of a wild eyed tourist who has lost his wallet and desperately walks into the Visitor’s Center only to find that someone has turned it in.  It’s a great pleasure to return the item and put that tourist at ease so he or she can still enjoy their visit to our little City by the Bay.

I call upon Sausalito’s good will Ambassadors and Ladies of the Ice House …to take a bow, for Sausalito is lucky to have such an awesome bunch of gals representing this town and its residents.


Ice House ladies Doris Berdahl, Robin Sweeny, Bea Seidler and Julie Warren (l. to r.)

Photo courtesy of  Steefenie Wicks






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