The Sterling-Hamman House at 401 Emerson Street was built circa 1903 in the Westmoreland neighborhood by the Russell Brown Company. The house exhibits characteristics of the American Four-Square, Colonial Revival, and Queen Anne styles. Its most prominent features include paired hip roof dormers, paired bay windows on the second floor, and the front porch with its round, classical columns mounted on stone pedestals. The home was built circa 1903 as a speculation house by the Russell Brown Company, which adapted its design from a house plan originally designed by George F. Barber, a Knoxville, Tennessee architect. Barber was one of this country’s most successful, late nineteenth-century domestic architects. By publishing his designs in inexpensive illustrated mail-order catalogues, complete with price lists for his drawings and order forms, Barber reached thousands of potential clients throughout the United States and abroad. As an additional service, Barber would customize his plans to suit client needs or adapt the design to meet any special requirements of the proposed construction site. There are several other variations of Barber plans in Westmoreland in addition to 401 Emerson, including 219 Hawthorne, 303 Hawthorne, and 304 Hawthorne. Barber’s designs were also used by the Omaha and South Texas Land Company when it constructed 17 homes in Houston Heights in 1892.
Russell Brown Company was a prolific builder not only in Westmoreland (at least 12 houses) but elsewhere in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. Russell Brown apparently adapted George F. Barber’s Design No. 772 from “Modern American Homes” for the house at 401 Emerson. Barber had published the design in a catalogue in 1903. Since the house was built for speculation, Brown did not go to the extremes of copying all the finely detailed and elaborate features of the original Barber design. Nonetheless, the house at 401 Emerson is an important example of the architecture in Westmoreland from that period. The house is a contributing building to both the National Register and City of Houston Historic Districts. The first owner of the home seems to have been E. A. Sterling, General Manager of Sterling Oil Company, and his wife, Mary. The next owner was attorney and independent oil man, John Hamman (1879-1966), founder of Hamman Exploration Co, which is still in operation today as Hamman Oil and Refining Company. Hamman was also a lawyer specializing in land and corporation law and a pioneer in the development of mineral resources in Texas. The Hamman family lived in this house until 1925. After 1925, the house was rented from Hamman by Houston architect, R. D. Steele. Steele designed the Henke-Pillot South End Store at 2800-2816 Travis (1923); the Star Engraving Company at 3201 Allen Parkway (1930); and the grandiose St. Paul’s Methodist Church at 2422 Milam (1909, demolished 1969).
The two-story frame house located at 401 Emerson exhibits characteristics of the American FourSquare, Colonial Revival, and Queen Anne styles. Its most prominent features include paired hip roof dormers, paired bay windows on the second floor, and a three-bay full-length front porch with round, classical columns mounted on stone pedestals. The two center pedestals feature paired columns. The house was adapted by the builder Russell Brown Company from a George Barber design.