Cafe Arazu

  • Cafe Arazu Exterior
    Cafe Arazu Exterior
  • Ben and Penny Nejad
    Ben and Penny Nejad
  • Back Patio of Cafe Arazu
    Back Patio of Cafe Arazu

17 West Jennings Street

This building, also known as the Abshier Ice House, was erected in 1878 by James E. Abshier and his wife Cora for use as an ice house. In 1887 the Abshiers opened the Riverside Hotel on Water Street. They were famous for their homemade ice cream and barbecue sauce served over meat. The ice house, which was located on Jennings behind the hotel, served the Riverside Hotel and other businesses.

Ice cutting was a vital early Newburgh business. Ice was cut from the river and the Mill Pond located just north of Gray Street and on the east side of Hillcrest Drive. Men with special ice-cutting saws, operated by hand, cut the blocks to measure three feet square and four to six inches in thickness. Many cold winter nights, all night long, neighbors could hear the horse drawn wagons carrying the ice chunks to be stored. This is the only remaining house that was used for that purpose.

The walls of the building are seventeen inches thick at parts and ice was packed in sawdust and straw until it was needed. Ice storing ended around 1900 with the advent of artificial ice made in neighboring Evansville.

In 1925 the building was enlarged and for the next forty-four years housed a variety of enterprises, including a millinery shop, a bookstore, and a restaurant.

In 1971 the Calliope opened. It was named after the steam-activated instrument played on the Delta Queen as it serenaded the town while gliding up and down the river. The Calliope achieved a fine reputation for its atmosphere as well as for its delicious sandwiches, homemade desserts, ice-cream dishes, and interesting gifts. The Calliope was operated by Leon Jacobson and his wife Nanene Queen Engle, one of the Abshier’s greanddaughters. Nanene was an artist and art teacher. The back room of the restaurant was paneled with cypress that was over one hundred years old and taken from an old building on Main Street in Evansville. A patio surrounded by a board fence was added for outdoor eating.

Later, the building housed a business for Susan McClain Interiors. She specialized in interior design, wall coverings, fabrics, carpets, and accessories.

Today the building houses Cafe Arazu, one of southern Indiana’s most popular and critically acclaimed restaurants. It was created by Ben and Penny Nejad and fused Middle Eastern cuisines, due in part to Ben Nejad’s Persian roots. To complement the restaurant they later opened Ben and Penny’s at 20 W. Water St, offering an ice-cream parlor, gourmet chocolates, pastries and coffee, European cheeses and meats to accompany your wine or craft beer, a deli offering breakfast and sandwiches, and a gourmet shop with unique products for your picnic or gift basket — as well as local art.