In 1908, the Imperial Ice Company built an 8,000-square-foot warehouse with bow-truss ceiling and clerestory windows toward the back of its Main Street property in Santa Monica, California. In 1928 another open-truss structure was added to the original warehouse. With the advent of refrigeration in the 1940’s and a decline in the ice business, the Michel Brothers, minority partners, bought the property for the egg processing division of the dairy they owned and built a small art deco style building with Main Street frontage to house their offices. The 1908 warehouse became their “egg-candling room” in which eggs were held up to a light to check for fertilization. They announced a newspaper competition to select a new name for their business and the winner was Edgemar, a cross between the English and the Spanish, the edge of the sea.
In 1983 the Michel Brothers sold out to Foremost and placed the Main Street property on the market. The following year Abby Sher, a neighbor, purchased the Edgemar property in order to build what is today known as Edgemar. She commissioned architect Frank Gehry for the project and asked him to preserve the original structures. Thomas Eatherton, an artist who had been living in a small outbuilding on the site, had shown Ms. Sher the ice warehouse with its 8,000-square-foot clear span and 25-foot ceiling and suggested its use as a museum. Subsequently the two of them, along with a small group of associates, formed the not-for-profit Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMOA). On February 5, 1985, Ms. Sher received final approval from the City of Santa Monica for the use of the Edgemar site for a mixed-use development containing retail stores, offices, a restaurant and The Santa Monica Museum of Art. The first museum exhibition, “Art in the Raw,” opened in 1988 in the raw space. The first Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream west of Chicago opened in Edgemar at the same time along with the Gallery of Functional Art. The rest of the project was occupied soon thereafter.
In 1994 SMMOA moved to a larger location in Santa Monica, and in 2003 the Edgemar Center for the Arts opened in the original 1908 warehouse.
In 2007 ownership changed hands but continues the focus and involvement in the arts.