Sanger Bldg/J.C. Penney – Houston

In 1928 Sanger Brothers, which had only recently built another store building at 515 Houston Street , started construction on this showplace building. Fort Worth architect Wyatt C. Hedrick designed the Spanish Renaissance Revival structure which was erected by Wohlfield and Witt, contractors. Various problems, including the collapse of a wall between this construction site and the adjacent J.C. Penney store and a fire that destroyed the Penney building in January 1929, plagued the project. When the building opened to the public on June 25, 1929, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram described it as a “fairyland” complete with the most modern retailing innovations. The Depression caused major problems for Sanger Brothers, and the store closed only a year or so after it had opened. Vacant for several years, in 1943 the building was adapted by the architectural firm of Clarkson, Pelich, Geren and Rady for use as a U.S.O. It was the largest U.S.O. in the United States during World War II. Sleeping quarters, recreational facilities (a dance floor, lounge, billiard tables, shuffleboard, and table tennis), and a basement canteen were provided for the soldiers. Following the close of World War II, the building was acquired in 1946 by the J.e. Penney Co. which left its old building next door at 406-08 Houston St. (CBD 85) to occupy this much larger facility. Penney’s remained here until about 1970. In 1986 the building’s facade was restored, and it became the flagship store for Pier 1Imports. Nowlin Savings occupies the ground floor on the Throckmorton St. facade. Architect Martin Growald and Linbeck Construction Corporation, general contractor, coordinated the restoration effort. This handsome five-story concrete commercial building faced with stone occupies the southern portion of the block bounded by Fourth, Houston, Fifth, and Throckmorton streets. The ground floor storefronts have colonnette- framed transoms flanked by fluted concrete pilasters. The four upper floors have paired wood sash windows recessed between pilasters that rise to a decorative cap at the fifth floor level. The Sanger Building appears to be eligible for the National Register on the basis of its architectural quality.

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