The Staiti House was built on Block 5, Lot 16 and part of Lot 17, with the address 421 Westmoreland. It was removed from Westmoreland via donation to the Heritage Society and relocation to Sam Houston Park.
The lot now contains two townhomes, 427 and 429 Westmoreland.
Information and photographs of the Staiti House on this page provided by Betty Chapman and the Heritage Society.
THE STAITIHOUSE IN WESTMORELAND
The Westmoreland addition was one of the earliest residential areas developed to the south of the main business district.It was an elegant subdivision and was considered, according to one newspaper article, a place for those of “means and family.” It had shell-paved streets and the houses were electrified.A 1904 ad in the Houston Post touted the good drainage and modern conveniences of the area.
On October 1904, E. O Maynard, a brick contractor and builder, bought Lot 16 in Block 5 from the South End Land Company for $1,300. He acquired a building permit on December 6, 1904, for a seven-room residence to be built on the property for the sum of $3,000. On February 28, 1905, Henry Thomas Staiti purchased Lot 16 with “all improvements therein” for $5,400 and the west half of Lot 17 for $600. Staiti, a native of Marshall, Texas, was an oilman who began his prospecting work in McLennanCounty. Moving to Beaumont following the Spindletop gusher, he formed his own exploration company and moved to Houston with his wife, Odelia, in late 1904.
The house was described at the time of its completion as being in the California bungalow style, which was popular in Houston during the post-oil boom years and was typical of the upper-middle class residence. It was built to accommodate the climate with high ceilings, large windows, and broad verandas. Shortly after the Staitis moved into the house at 421 Westmorland Boulevard, it was featured in a local publication, The Houstonian, as one of the city’s beautiful homes. The interior was lavishly described as having natural curly pine woodwork. Oriental carpets, Arabian net draperies and fruit-design wall coverings. The Staitis enjoyed their home until a hurricane hit the TexasCoast in August 1915. The storm did considerable damage to the upper southeast portion of the Staiti house.The Staitis decided that, while repairing the damage, they would make alterations to the house.Alfred Finn’s architectural firm was hired to do the work. Finn added sun rooms downstairs and upstairs, two sleeping porches and a bathroom across the back, and converted a back porch into an informal dining area. There was an important reason the Staitis enlarged their home. It was often home to members of their extended family. Brothers of Henry lived there while they were finding jobs and getting settled in Houston. Odelia’s sisters and mother came for long, extended visits. Two sisters lived there after being widowed. It was very much a family home in a family-oriented neighborhood.
In addition to the work on the house itself, Finn designed a tea house with connecting pergola, a greenhouse, a combination chicken house and gardener’s cottage, and even the garden furniture. This was very early in the career of Finn, who would later design such structures as the San JacintoMonument and the GulfBuilding (now the JPMorganChaseBuilding), as well as countless other structures in Houston. Since the Staitis were early proponents of the automobile, a large garage and attached porte-cochere were also part of the property.
To enhance the garden structures, the Staitis hired Edward Dewson, one of Houston’s earliest landscape architects and editor of Architectural Journal, to design formal gardens. Both Henry and Odelia were intensely interested in horticulture and spent much time planning and supervising the care of the gardens. Family records indicate that among the plantings were roses, crepe myrtles, day lilies, dahlias (Odelia’s favorite), iris, coral vine, boxwood, holly fern, plumbago, and palm trees. The Staitis frequently ordered seeds from as far away as South America. An underground sprinkler system was installed in 1918. The gardens were considered quite lovely as evidenced by their inclusion in the 1925 Encyclopedia of Texas. It is apparent that the neighborhood enjoyed the constantly blooming gardens.
The Staiti home was frequently the setting for gatherings of both family and friends. Two weddings and a wedding reception were held there over the years. The family held an annual New Year’s Eve Watch party and the neighborhood celebration each July 4th for which Mr. Staiti always organized the fireworks. Although the Staitis had no children of their own, they were very fond of children and enjoyed those in the neighborhood, even taking then to the circus when it came to Houston.
Henry Staiti, who remained active in the oil industry as both geologist and producer, died in 1933, followed by his wife, Odelia, in 1954. Leah, a sister of Odelia, continued to live in the house until her death in 1980—a period of 66 years. After her death, the house remained vacant until 1984. It appeared that the house would be razed for new development. Instead, the Staiti heirs—a number of nieces and nephews—gave the house to The Heritage Society. In December 1986, the structure was cut in half and the two sections were moved to SamHoustonPark. An authentic restoration was possible because of the remarkable documentation on the house. The Staitis had commercial photographs made of the house, both interior and exterior, over the years. Family members added to the photographic collection. These allowed The Heritage Society to replicate the setting and to appropriately furnish the home. Cuttings were taken from the grounds for replanting in the garden at its new site. This extraordinary home with its rich history is now a house museum which is open to the public for touring most days of the year.
The Staiti home was designed for comfortable living by a family who placed a high priority on their home and its surrounding neighborhood. It brings Sam Houston Park into the 20th century and recalls those years when dreams, hard work, and perhaps good fortune could produce success, not only for a single family but for an entire neighborhood in a growing city.