History? . . . what history?

A shell of its old self: Exclusive photos inside Alabama Theater reveal true extent of Trader Joe's clearing

A shell of its old self: Exclusive photos inside Alabama Theater reveal true extent of Trader Joe's clearing

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Amidst the dusty renovation work, one can still spot the Alabama Theater's original wall paneling, paint and decorative plasterwork. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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The L-shaped corridor reveals virtually no signs of the building's past life as a bookstore and movie theater. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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A little more of the north wall, with a view of the balcony and plasterwork. . . Photo by Tyler Rudick
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One can almost hear the sounds of rolling shopping carts and cash registers. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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Last fall, minor exterior alterations were approved by the city's historical commission. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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According to a Thursday article in Swamplot, the storefront window facing Shepherd will be removed. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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News_Alabama Theater_construction_Trader Joe's_renovation
News_Alabama Theater_construction_Trader Joe's_renovation
News_Alabama Theater_construction_Trader Joe's_renovation
News_Alabama Theater_construction_Trader Joe's_renovation
News_Alabama Theater_construction_Trader Joe's_renovation

No, there's not much left of the Alabama Theater's old art-deco interior, as a group of about 10 workers cleared out debris on Friday in preparation for Houston's inaugural Trader Joe's.

While the floor has been leveled and the stage has been removed from the historic Shepherd Drive landmark, much of the original interior wall paneling remains as does the decorative blue plasterwork along the sides of the theater and on the ceiling. The balcony is still in place above the Alabama entrance.

The dust was thick and a considerable amount of wall space was covered in black tarps, so it remains to be seen what's left of the finer historical details.

Inside, one can almost see  the lines of shopping carts waiting for Trader Joe's customers.

Virtually nothing has been salvaged inside the empty L-shaped corridor that hugs the old theater space along the back parking lot and Whole Earth Provision. Inside, one can almost see the lines of shopping carts waiting for Trader Joe's customers.

In fall 2011, Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission (HAHC) approved exterior alterations to the old theater as proposed by Weingarten Realty Investors, the company which owns the building as well as the equally historic (and equally chopped-up) River Oaks Shopping Center. The interior space, however, is not under the HAHC's jurisdiction.

According to a Thursday report by Swamplot, which obtained the renovation plans by Heights Venture Architects, some serious adjustments are afoot in the building. The front portion of the balcony will be demolished along with sections of the auditorium's south wall.

Also gone will be portions of the mezzanine floor as well as the windows looking onto Shepherd and elements of the old theater that were preserved when the building was converted into the much-loved Bookstop in the early '80s.

As first reported by the Houston Chronicle's Nancy Sarnoff in February, the state comptroller has approved a sale tax permits for a Trader Joe's at the Shepherd site as well as for another branch on Voss. As of yet, the two Houston locations are not listed on the grocer's website.

And as CultureMap first detailed, the area's first Trader Joe's is already well under construction in The Woodlands.