Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Lichtenstein's, Corpus Christi, Texas

Postcard showing Lichtenstein's as it looked after moving to its new home in December 1941.

Sign etched into marble on the side of the abandoned Lichtenstein's store site in downtown Corpus Christi.  The bolt holes were probably from another sign covering it that said Frost Bros., which operated there from 1977 until closing.
Lichtenstein's as it looked in May 2006
Lichtenstein's department store was originally opened in a rented wood-frame building at Chaparral and Peoples in Corpus Christi in 1874 by founder Moritz Lichtenstein, a German immigrant who arrived in Texas in 1857.  By 1890, the store had outgrown this site and moved into the Uehlinger building (now gone), in the 500 block of Chaparral.  In 1911, the store moved into a new three-story brick building on Chaparral at Schatzel, with the city's first elevators and one of the first with a sprinkler system.  This building survived the 1919 hurricane, but no longer stands today.

In 1903, Moritz formed a partnership with his two sons, Selig Julius and Abraham Albert Sr., and the store was renamed M. Lichtenstein & Sons. The founder died in 1904; Julius and Albert managed the store until their deaths in 1923 and 1929 respectively.  Albert's son Morris L. bought out heirs in 1932; and persuaded younger brother Albert Jr. (husband of my relative Annie Carol Wolfe) to join the company as vice-president  Later, during World War II, their first cousin Morris Spitz Lichtenstein (son of their uncle Emil) joined the company as secretary-treasurer.

In 1941, the store moved into the building pictured, a brand new facility at Chaparral and Lawrence, one block south of the existing store.  The postcard pictured at the beginning of this post described it as "a striking example of modern store planning.  Its 80,000 square feet of area is designed to afford many unique customer services and make every-day shopping a thrilling experience." A tea room opened on the fourth floor of this building in 1942 and was a popular place for lunch.  No doubt our relatives shopped or ate here (or, in the case of some, helped run the place).  Even former employees have fond memories.

The store was sold in 1972 and the name was changed to Frost Bros. in 1977, but it closed a decade later.  I do remember going to this store when I lived in Corpus Christi in the early 1980s.  The building has sat vacant since then, with a number of proposals for redevelopment falling through.  Now, despite art projects, its deterioration has gone beyond peeling paint to crumbling walls and rusting rebar.  The main building is currently in a shell condition, having the interior walls, asbestos abatement and the removal of hazardous materials completed in 2007.  The tax value of the building has gone down while the land value has gone up, and the building is now slated for demolition.

© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.

1 comment: