How the Marriage of Richmond and Wheeler Came Too Late to the Midtown Sears Building’s South Side

Ever notice that the Wheeler-Ave. side of the Midtown Sears (shown above) doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the building? It’s become even clearer since all that beige metal cladding was stripped off the structure earlier this year. Upon its removal, the biggest revelations were cascading green, red, and blue art-deco tile mosaics (shown here) running from top to bottom on every side of the building, except the Wheeler one, where the array of facade openings pictured at top are a bit less architecturally refined despite their prominent positions overlooking crosstown traffic.

So, what gives? Well, it turns out that Sears’s south side wasn’t all that visible when the building opened in 1939. Back then, Wheeler was just a narrow side street off Main and did not flow directly into Richmond as it does now, explains Preservation Houston’s Jim Parsons. Richmond, a much larger thoroughfare, also dead-ended into Main St., across from the Sears and just north of where Wheeler began. You can see the missed connection in the 1950 street map above.

It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the 2 streets were joined through a partial annexation of the Delman Theater property at 4412 Main, catty-corner southwest of the Sears:


The ’30s-era cinema building stayed put for a few more decades with its strip retail neighbors a bit closer to the curb since Richmond now curved southeast into Wheeler.

Then Dallas-based Tivoli Realty demolished the Delman along with its adjacencies in 2002. (Covering the teardown, Nancy Sarnoff wrote that a late ’80s stint hosting live performances had been the theater’s last hurrah. It sat unoccupied, she reported, for most of the following decade.)

Also a byproduct of the roadwork: Peggy’s Point Plaza Park, the small fenced-in fountain and square at the northwest corner of Richmond and Main that’s become a popular homeless hangout:

A few more shots of the Sears building’s ornate west . . .

and north sides:

Here’s the Wheeler facade from afar:

And up close:

Map: Rand McNally via Houston Area Digital Archives. Photos of Sears: Adam Brackman (mosaics); Swamplox inbox (all others). Photos of Peggy’s Point Plaza Park: Denise W. Photos of Delman Theater: Predator [license] (color); bdeen [license] (black and white)

When Roads Collide

8 Comment

  • Saw Mary Poppins at the Delman.

    There were a lot of neighborhood movie theaters back then – the Santa Rosa out on Telephone Road, the Eastwood in the East End area, were a few. And there were a bunch downtown – Lowe’s, Majestic and the Metropolitan. Those were the days!!

  • Saw New Order and The Butthole Surfers in that theater

  • I just don’t get why people ooh and aah over this building.

  • The Delman! Saw both “Blow up” and “Easy Rider” there is the faublous late 60s.

  • Thanks, Dan Singer, for providing this ‘Aha!’ moment. Many of the more puzzling aspects of Houston’s streets and the adjoining buildings make sense when compared with maps of the infrastructure that used to be there (for example, the railroad right-of-way that was used to construct portions of I-59).
    Also, I appreciate when someone correctly uses the word ‘jibe’. Drives me crazy when people write about streets that ‘jive’ with each other.

  • I saw “1776” at the Delman, with tickets I won off the radio (either KLOL or KLEF). Some years later I had my first Vietnamese food at a little mom & pop café in the storefront right next to the theater. The theater, the café, and the co-worker who introduced me to pho have all been gone for years now.

  • I saw Herbie the Love Bug, Mary Poppins, Romeo & Juliet & others @ the Delman…

  • If you look at Google Maps satellite view, you can still see the patterned terrazzo floor of the theater.