Keeper of the Plans

Delano building’s history comes to life as renovation reveals surprising detail

History exposed as Delano building gets a makeover

Stucco covered the building at the southeast corner of Douglas and Seneca for years, until new owner Tony Abdayem decided to remove it, exposing the original brick from 1910.
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Stucco covered the building at the southeast corner of Douglas and Seneca for years, until new owner Tony Abdayem decided to remove it, exposing the original brick from 1910.

A prominent Delano building has received a major facelift in the past month.

Panels of gray stucco had dominated the 1910-built building at the southeast corner of Douglas and Seneca — remnants of a 1965 remodel by a long-gone Otasco department store.

Now the corner is back to how it looked in 1910, save for the boarded-up windows.

Last month the new owner of 1029 W. Douglas, Tony Abdayem, took advantage of the city’s facade improvement program to remove the “very ugly” stucco, exposing the century-old brickwork underneath — to the delight of Delano residents, who cite it as proof of the neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization.

Abdayem is a well-known local restauranteur who also owns La Galette French Cafe & Bakery on the same block.

Photos of the new/old building have been widely shared on Facebook.

When he bought the building, Abdayem said the stucco was the first thing to go.

“I knew there was beautiful brick behind it,” he said. “Especially being on the corner of Seneca and Douglas, the main entrance to Delano, I thought it was going to be a beautiful match with all the historical buildings that are here along Douglas.”

Now that the majority of the ‘60s stucco has been pried off the face of the building, Ted Farha, whose Farha Construction worked the job, said “the bones, the shell of the building are in really good shape.”

The building’s biggest issues are its windows — which were mostly broken out, boarded up and covered by stucco for decades — and second-floor trusswork that was damaged by a fire years ago, Farha said.

“We’re going to restore the windows — they’re mostly in great shape, surprisingly,” Farha said. “When you restore an old window like that and keep it painted, it can last hundreds of years, literally, if you take good care of it.”

The roof has already been replaced.

Abdayem said he wants to further renovate the building and find a commercial tenant (or tenants) for the space.

“People have a lot of ideas — I’ve been approached about a wedding venue, a nice club, bar or whatever,” he said, adding that he wants “no club, I’m sorry.”

He said he’s proud to be a part of Delano, which has experienced growth in recent years — where buildings are being renovated, restored, and a new baseball stadium will soon be built.

“I’m sure a couple years from now you’re going to see a lot of beautiful places around Douglas, especially in the Delano area,” Abdayem said.

Building’s history

Many stores have called the building home over the years.

It was built by pioneering local druggist George T. Riley, who opened Riley’s Drug Store there in 1911. He had a partner in the business, Charles E. Holden, who also ran a grocery store there.

Both men’s last names were above their stores in stone.

Then, in 1927, the building was sold to Harry Dockum, who opened his sixth local Dockum Drug Store there.

Sometime during that time frame, the Riley name was removed from the top of the building and replaced with “Dockum,” which remains to this day. The neighboring building still says “Holden.”

The face of the building was significantly changed in 1965, when the Oklahoma-based Otasco department store chain opened in the building.

According to a 1965 Eagle article, the Otasco store was “designed to be one of the most modern in the Otasco network.” The chain renovated the interior of the building and added the stucco and marble chip facades that until recently hung on the building.

Otasco was gone by 1990, and after that the building played host to a variety of businesses — a Salvation Army thrift store in the ‘90s, a Shoe Warehouse from 2007-2010, and most recently, Mid-America TV & Appliance, which was in the building from 2011 to 2017.

In its early days, there were four apartment units on the second floor of the building, which rented for anywhere from $12 to $25 per month in 1920, according to archived Eagle articles.

Doctors and dentists also officed on the second floor at various times in the building’s history.

Various shreds of wallpaper still hang peeling from the walls on the second floor, which is complete with pine floorboards.

Riley Drug Store postcard ca.1910 courtesy Jim Mason.jpg
A postcard featuring Riley’s Drug Store at Douglas and Seneca circa 1910. Jim Mason Courtesy

dockum no 6.jpg
In 1927 Harry Dockum bought the building at Douglas and Seneca and turned it into Dockum Drugs No. 6. Wichita Eagle staff File photo

otasco shot.jpg
Otasco, an Oklahoma-based auto supplies chain, opened in the building in 1965 and put up the stucco and marble chip cladding that covered the original brickwork and remained until 2019. Wichita Eagle staff File photo

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.