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Sterling Hall was one of a group of nineteenth-century homes built by the financial and industrial elite of Wilkes-Barre and situated along the waterfront of the north branch of the Susquehanna River. The collection of mansions along the river was unusual, occupying an area normally associated with industry and commerce, and was a result of the location of the North Branch Canal several blocks inland. The mansions in this narrow three-block strip belonged to the entrepreneurs leading the development of the anthracite coal industry in the region, which played an important role in the industrial revolution.
Built between 1860, when Walter G. Sterling first acquired the property, and about 1870, by which time it is certain that the family occupied their new home, the Sterling residence is distinguished by the ornate ironwork framing its porch. It is thought to be by Robert Wood, a manufacturer of ornamental iron located in Philadelphia. The house itself is an example of residential Italianate architecture of the mid-Victorian period. The Sterling family lived there until 1949, when the property was given to Wilkes by Walker Carleton Sterling, a prominent lawyer and the eldest son of Walter G. Sterling. Sterling has since remained a residence hall, allowing generations of Wilkes students to pass under its intricate ironwork to get to their dormitories.