Original DePelchin Faith Home Building (1913)

As an organization, the DePelchin Faith Home (now the DePelchin Children’s Center) dates back even further than 1913. Houstonian Kezia Payne DePelchin was born in 1828, in the Madeira Islands. She lost both her mother and father by the time she was eight, and was raised from that age, in Houston, by her father’s second wife, an English governess. She married during the Civil War, but the marriage failed. Immune to yellow fever, she spent many years as a nurse. She later became the first female matron at the Bayland Orphans’ Home for Boys.

DePelchin founded the “Faith Home” in 1892. While the home’s original purpose seems to have been to fund the care of two homeless children (elsewhere described as “three unwanted babies”), the home was organized to provide day care for the children of working mothers, charging only those mothers who could afford to pay.

DePelchin’s September 1892 report of donations to the “Faith Home” notes: “We have eight besides the matron, although they come and go. Per week, 75 cents; per day, 10 cents. None turned away. . . . This is for little children.” The report also mentions that “one of our little ones died and the cemetery company gave it a resting place.”

DePelchin herself died just a few months later, in January 1893. In that same month, in honor of her memory and to carry on her work, 100 Houston women organized the “DePelchin Faith Home”, which continued operating primarily as an orphanage.

In 1913, Jesse Jones commissioned a building for the orphanage at 2700 Albany, in the Fourth Ward. Jones also led the fundraising for the project, raising $55,000. The neo-Mediterranean-style three-story stucco building was designed by the St. Louis architecture firm Mauran & Russell, which also designed the Rice Hotel and the Hotel Galvez. The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance notes that “[i]ts broad eaves and sleeping porches were important features in the days before air conditioning when dozens of children lived here.”

Jones continued to raise money for the home after it was built. Copies of some of his fundraising letters, including letters to “Messrs. Neuhaus & Co.”, “Messrs. Sakowitz Bros.”, and Howard Hughes are posted on the DePelchin Children Center’s website. While all are very straightforward, one of the more humorous letters, to “Mr. Bassett Blakely”, reads: “You have not sent me your check for Faith Home. For all I know, you are responsible for some of these unfortunate children, and whether you are or not, you have got to kick in just the same. So come on across for $2,000. I asked you for $1,000 the first time, but you did not hear me.”

The orphanage relocated to its current Memorial Drive location in 1938, and the Albany building was later purchased by Lorraine Priester, who ran a club on the first floor called either the Rams Club or Ram’s Club (depending on the source) from the mid-1950’s to 1970. However, Priester carried on DePelchin’s philanthropic tradition by using income from the Rams Club to care for the elderly residents to whom she gave rooms on the upper floors of the building.

The Rams Club was an upscale private supper club frequented by leading Houston politicians. Houstorian commenter Elizabeth Rinker recalls it as a “fantastic place” featuring “dancing to Jose Ortiz’s orchestra,” and remembers her father being given the microphone “for several songs each and every time we went.” (Pianist and band leader Jose Ortiz was popular in the area as early as the 1940’s – a 1948 newpaper article describes Ortiz and Victor Lombardo (Guy Lombardo’s younger brother) playing together at the Balinese Room in Galveston. Ortiz’s history requires a separate posting.)

Other generations of Houstonians remember the building for the clubs that came later. In the 1970’s, a gay dance club called The Farmhouse was located there. The Farmhouse later became The Officer’s Club, popular during the disco age, and supposedly once visited by Robert Plant.

In the 1990’s, the 1913 building housed the memorable music club Emo’s – and, for a time, the after-hours club Club Some. (In 2000, the Houston Press reported that the building had been sold and that Club Some had already vacated, but that the general manager of Emo’s, which had been there for more than 10 years, promised that “[w]e’ll always be here.”) Reportedly, the swimming pool that Emo’s patrons will recall as a depository for empty beer bottles, remains.

While many Houstonians were sad to see Emo’s leave in 2002, the transformation of the Fourth Ward to “Midtown” was already underway and property values were on the rise, threatening the aging building’s existence.

The former DePelchin Faith Home building would have yet another patroness in Linda Bramlett Stewart. Stewart, along with her partners in HHN Homes LP, acquired the property in 2001 and renovated it to house condominiums. Stewart’s grandmother lived across the street from the building, which is now known as Villa Serena, and she remembered it from visits as a child.

More information:

M. McDermott Hamm, “Saving a Slice of Houston History – Good Brick Awards Honor Diverse Preservation Efforts”, Houston Chronicle, Dec. 26, 2003.

GHPA, 2004 Good Brick Awards, HHN Homes LP for Villa Serena.

J. Mathieu, “Pam’s Last Stand”, Houston Press, Apr. 25, 2002.

28 responses to “Original DePelchin Faith Home Building (1913)

  1. I like this post. Thank you very much. I will follow your Blog.

  2. i lived in depelchin in 1974, with 3 other siblings. i was looking for info on others that lived there at the same time.

    • Peggy Sappington

      I also lived there in 1974, I am Peggy Sappington, brother Billy who lived in Mrs. McCree cottage. I don’t recall your name, who are your siblings?

  3. You missed its temporary incarnation as the ashram of the Guru Maharaj Ji in 1973. He held a gathering in the Astrodome in November, 1973, and they used the old Depelchin building as the headquarters for his followers while they planned, prepared and promoted the event.

  4. Is this blog still being updated? We are interested in Jose Ortiz. I’m married to his great grand-daughter.

  5. My family frequented the Rams Club for our birthdays and other special occasions. I remember eating in the dining room surrounded by beautiful huge paintings, more like murals, in the renaissance style. I would dance on my dad’s feet to the most amazing jazz, blues and big band music. When we little ones were cold from drinking too much iced soda’s the wait staff would cover our shoulders with the white cloth dinner napkins. We would have our swimming parties at the pool, and they would bring our burgers and fries out to us – we loved that! The place was so lovely, sumptuous, what a place! I will always have fond memories of the Houston Ram’s Club. I have enjoyed reading this history, thank you. Carrie

  6. My great-aunt had a membership to the Ram’s Club. My brother and I loved swimming in that wonderful pool, (also the female lifeguards were pleasing to the eyes – even for a 10 year old). It seems like the club was still in existence around 1972 but I’m not certain. We have very fond memories of spending some of our hot Houston summers there.

  7. I savor, lead to I discovered exactly what I used to be having a look for.
    You have ended my four day lengthy hunt!

    God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  8. I am very interested in your information about the DePelchin Faith Home. My father lived there in 1914, and has written a wonderful story about his experience there which was life saving. I am editing that story expect to have a book finished in early 2013, almost 100 years after Dad lived there.

    • I would love to read the book, my mother and two brothers lived there in 1930’s. She would talk about the cottages and the dorm mothers, but sadly she passed away in 2012 and the stories are gone forever. But she and a brother did go back about 1999 and did get some transcipts about their life, she was searching for her mother.

    • Is your book now available?

    • My Grandmother was there in 1920, not too long after your Father..

    • In 1910, my great-grandfather, Heinrich Kiel temporarily placed four of his children Henry, Oscar, Walter, and Robert in the DePelchin Faith Home. My grandfather Walter and his brothers had for their Matron St. Jest Angelina; she was from France. My grandfather mentioned to me how the food was good at the home, that he used to help carry in the wood, and how they were allowed to play with only one toy at a time. That when they were finished playing with the toy, they had to return it to its place.

      My great-grandfather, Henry didn’t immediately bring his children home after arriving back in Texas from visiting his parents in Germany. I am not sure of the exact time my grandfather and his brothers left the home, I thank my great-grandfather waited about four years before he was in a position to bring his children home. I would be very interested in learning more about their stay at the home. Any help would be appreciated.

      Do you know if there is a repository for the early records of the DePelchin Faith Home? I am looking information on the early days of the home, of my grandfather, his brother’s, and what it would have been like living at DePelchin. Do you have a photo of the 1910 -1914 DePelchin home and/or the children who were there at the time?

      Regards,
      Kenneth Kiel

  9. My name is Norman Scott I lived at Faith Home 1969- 1970, they took when no one else would have fond memories

    • Nice to hear from you. You gave me some new information about Kezia DePelchin. Dad’s birthday was July 23, as was hers, and he felt a very special connection to her

  10. Does anyone know of a Mrs. Merkle (?) that assisted w/adoptions? Would have been in the 50’s.

    • Hi, JB. I am Melissa, adopted in 1960. The name of the “DePelchin Faith Home Worker” on my a-parents’ “Agreement Regarding Adoption” was Grace Raveling. My a-mom’s brother, Robert Hardie was a Pediatrician who did volunteer work for Depelchin, possibly during that time; I know he helped facilitate my adoption, possibly my a-brother’s as well in 1956. Mom would say he found me for them, as I was sick a lot & Uncle Robert would say I just needed to be in “a stable home”.

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  14. My Grandmother and her sisters were here in 1920, wish I knew the circumstances that led to them being there, I know they weren’t orphaned so had to be another reason.. Is there any way to find out why they were there?? Her name was Josephine Jeschke and her sister was Sybil and Anna Mae.. I found a census with that information on there!!

  15. My mother was raised in Faith Home from about 1940 to 1950. Her name was Georgia Lillian Charanza – she went by Lillian, not Georgia. Her cottage mother was Mrs. Murphy. I can’t remember her first name. My mother died 5 years ago of a rare disease called CJD I wonder if any of you remember her?

  16. Wonderful stories about the Depelchin helping kids. Ironically, it ended up as Club Some…so it started out helping wayward children and finally morphed into a club helping children become more wayward.

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  19. My mother and her 1/2 sister were in this home in about 1927 or 1930 until 1938 or 1940 (at least my mother- she told of having to move out at 18 and support herself) how can I get photos/info on this period?

  20. In my family, I am the youngest of six children. I can remember on Friday nights, after work, my father would stop by the DePelchin Faith Home and bring home a child or siblings to visit for the weekend. (mid to late 1960’s) We often went fishing in Matagorda or had BBQ’s in the backyard. We were a struggling family ourselves, but always managed to open our home and hearts for a few extras. Though this practice is non-existent today, and considered very un-politically correct; these are some of my fondest memories to date.

  21. Debra L Kamsheh

    My name is Vincent Musgrave and my birth mother resided at DePelchin Faith Home when I was born. My dob is 5/10/1966. I was born at St Joseph’s Hospital in Houston. I am looking to reconnect with my birth family. An help would be appreciated.

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