Connect with Houston history at the modern Villa Serena


Discover Villa Serena, a historic 1913 building whose staying power not only promises her residents modern Montrose living, but also an appropriately eclectic Montrose past.

Houston has a well-earned reputation for knocking down older and potentially historic buildings in favor of bright and shiny replacements. But that isn’t universally the case. Nestled quietly between Montrose and Midtown, Villa Serena is a perfect example of a historically significant building that’s been repurposed into an urban living oasis. In a nutshell, Villa Serena is perfectly Montrose!

Garden shot of the grand Neo-Mediterranean building

Classic Neo-Mediterranean Design

Originally known as the DePelchin Faith Home, this magnificent neo-Mediterranean-style three-story structure has an extremely colorful past. Commissioned in 1913 as an orphanage by Jesse Jones, she was originally designed by the St. Louis architecture firm Mauren & Russell which can also be credited for the Rice hotel and Hotel Galvez. A notable feature of this stucco structure that played an integral role during the orphanage years were the broad eves and sleeping porches, both of which were critical in providing comfort for the children in the days before air conditioning. Today, the grand oak trees that were likely planted by children of the orphanage, keep watch over this magnificent structure blanketing her with their enormous branches.

Storied Past

This magnificent space served as a loving refuge for area children until 1938, when the orphanage relocated to its current Memorial drive location. The building itself was later purchased by philanthropist Lorraine Priester, who ran an upscale private supper club on the first floor called the Rams Club. From the 1950s until closing her doors in 1970, the building was frequented by Houston politicians and socialites alike. According to local lore, Howard Hughes, Robert Plant and Anna Nicole Smith have all crossed her threshold over the years.

The 1970s would bring yet another transformation to the interior and use of this grand building. Trading in her ballroom gowns for platform shoes and disco balls, she once again showed her resilience and staying power in the Inner Loop landscape. Obviously having an affinity for music, she housed several nightclubs over the next couple of decades, including, The Farmhouse, The Officers Club and EMOs, an establishment that entertained countless Houstonians for many until the early 2000s.

Interior of a Villa Serena unit listed for sale in November 2013

Modern Metamorphosis – If These Walls Could Talk

After decades of debauchery and dance, she finally decided to hang up her party shoes and settle into a more serene, grown up existence. Villa Serena was born with the help of Linda Bramlett Stewart and her partners in HHN Homes LP. Their transformation of this magnificent building into 15 luxury condos was not only a stroke of genius, but a feat to be applauded. All of the units have been updated with modern amenities such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, electrical and plumbing. However, with a past not to be forgotten, each unit also features exposed walls and other period curiosities, creating a perfect marriage of historical relevance and modern luxury. Not to let her flashy past outdo her current splendor, Villa Serena has been designated as a City of Houston landmark as well as a Texas Historic Landmark and a Texas Archeological Landmark – all designations that will likely guarantee a future as bright and bold as her colorful past.

Villa Serena

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Christopher Williams is a real estate agent with Heritage Texas Properties – Post Oak Park. He brings his experience and enthusiasm for Houston’s eclectic neighborhoods, real estate development, home design and community involvement into everything he does. A Texan by birth and Houstonian since 2005, he’s proud to call himself a Houston local and Texas Tech Red Raider.