Gov. Ross Sterling was one of twelve industrious entrepeneurial children who grew up on Double Bayou in neighboring Chambers County. The family members were merchants, gathering produce from Chambers County farmers and transporting it to Galveston for sale on the sailing vessel that they built themselves. This rural background provided Gov. Sterling the foundation that enabled him to be instrumental in the establishment of the Port of Houston, the development as governor of the Texas Highway System and the founding with others of the Humble Oil and Refining Company that later became Exxon.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Gov. Sterling helped his older sister, Annie, acquire this house in the newly established development of Avondale. Recently widowed and unable to manage by herself the family’s ranch in Chambers County, she moved into the city and this house with her three children, Gladys, Graydon and Nadyne.
She was soon joined by their sister Florence. An avid suffragette working to secure for women the right to vote and an energetic and entrepeneurial businesswoman in a time when women did not work outside of the home, Florence helped her brothers Frank and Ross establish the Humble Oil and Refining Company and became its corporate secretary.
Captain Benjamin Franklin Sterling, the elderly family patriarch, came to live in the house under the care of his daughters. A civil war veteran and former merchant, amateur physician, school master, he was charged with the care and supervision of his young granddaughter, Nadyne. On the mantle in his upstairs bedroom he kept in a cut glass decanter Four Roses Bourbon next to a jar of peppermint sticks. Every evening at 5:00, he and Nadyne had a “toddy,”-hers was a peppermint stick, his was one – and only one - jigger of bourbon – which they consumed while he told her stories of delivering medical aid to the Indians that visited his home in Liberty, Texas.
As a young child, Nadyne slept on warm summer months on the second story porch where she fell asleep listening to the adult conversation on the front porch of M.D. Anderson, who lived across the street. Her childhood playmate was Howard Hughes, whose family lived around the corner. She shocked her mother, Annie, and her Aunt Florence by playing ragtime music on the piano in the parlor.
In 1905 , when her married Gladys, independent oil operator John Deering moved into the house with the family and continued his pursuit of “the big strike”, making deals with other operators and landowners on a handshake, camping next to wells that were being drilled and stringently adhering to the code in the fledgling oil and gas industry that you never cheated your partner.
In 1926 his business had prospered sufficiently that he was able to move his wife and two young children into a new house built on the flat treeless prairie in Houston’s newest suburb, South Hampton.
Before retirement homes or child care facilities, multi-generations of a large but close extended family lived in this house. It gave a platform for the family members to pursue goals and take business risks with the knowledge that if they succeeded or if they failed, there was always a home to which they could return.
The interior of Sterling House was redesigned and reimagined by Kimberly Atlas Harrington.
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Historic Sterling House converted into bar
New Midtown Houston bar has historic roots