Company News Reviving History: Lange Real Estate Transforms Historic Site into Modern Offices, Unveiling Ghost Signs of Wichita’s Past

May 29, 2024

Construction projects often unveil treasures for local history enthusiasts, and few discoveries excite them more than stumbling upon a “ghost sign” – an ancient, hand-painted advertisement from bygone eras miraculously preserved through time. Recently, Wichita’s Delano neighborhood witnessed such excitement as new ghost signs emerged, though not as flamboyant as the vibrant orange-and-blue “pharmacy” sign unveiled on the Suhm building in 2015. Nevertheless, these signs have captivated those who reminisce about the businesses that once thrived there.

In a remarkable turn of events, as construction crews meticulously stripped away the 1980s-era decorative stucco on the east-facing side of the building,  a fascinating revelation emerged. Within the layers of time, ghost signs, echoing Wichita’s rich history, gradually came into view.

Now, with a fenced perimeter surrounding the site, bustling construction teams are diligently engaged in the transformational process. Their mission is to breathe new life into the space, crafting it into the cutting-edge headquarters for Lange Real Estate.

 

These ghost signs, which appear to have remnants of the words “drugs,” “cigars” and possibly “candy” or “cafe,” were revealed recently when construction started on the building at the southwest corner of Douglas and Seneca. This is the Seneca-facing side of the building. From DENISE NEIL The Wichita Eagle

 

The unveiling occurred several weeks ago during renovation work on a building at 1101 W. Douglas, situated on the southwest corner of Douglas and Seneca. The removal of decorative stucco, added in the 1980s, revealed faint painted signs underneath. On the northern side facing Seneca, remnants of the word “cigar” peek through, accompanied by partial letters hinting at “candy” and “drugs.”

Extensive research, aided by archived Wichita Eagle materials and contributions from local historian Mike Maxton, Jami Tracy from the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, and Joe Robertson of Lange Real Estate, began to paint a picture of the building’s storied past.

Records indicate the building’s construction in 1905, marking an era when Douglas and Seneca bustled with business activity, earning the moniker “Sunflower Block.” Initially, a two-story structure, the building expanded to the sidewalk on Douglas, now serving as a parking lot for recent tenants such as an insurance office. However, in the mid-1980s, the front section was demolished, leaving behind traces of its former glory.

Notably, the vacant space, now a parking lot, was once home to Wichita’s inaugural Zongker Drug, established around 1939 by Paul Zongker. The drugstore boasted a soda fountain and became a local landmark until its closure in the late 1980s. Memories flooded in from social media commenters, recalling visits during their school days.

The intersection of Douglas and Seneca thrived in the 1930s, hosting prominent establishments like Dockum Drug Co. and the Wichita Hospital. Prior to Zongker Drug, the space housed Riley Drug Store, followed by various pharmacies and even a café in the early 1900s.

 

This photo of the Zongker’s Drug on the southwest corner of Douglas and Seneca ran in anadvertisement in Photo from The Wichita Eagle in February 1946. File

 

The upper floors accommodated the Fairchild Hotel until around 1948 when it transitioned into the Stelts Hotel. A fire in 1968 inflicted significant damage, leading to the removal of the upper level. Subsequent years saw alterations, including the addition of stucco in 1985, a move met with nostalgia and resistance from locals who cherished the building’s historical significance.

Presently, Lange Real Estate is poised to transform the site into modern offices, covering the ghost signs once again. This impending transformation has reignited interest in the building’s past, prompting reflection on the layers of history embedded within its walls. As the building evolves, the ghost signs serve as poignant reminders of Wichita’s rich heritage, offering glimpses into bygone eras for those who pause to observe. As each layer of the past is carefully peeled away, the promise of a vibrant future for Lange Real Estate’s new home takes shape.

 

Stay tuned for more details on this transformation project as we pave a dynamic new chapter in Wichita’s storied landscape!

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