The Mellie EspersonDocumentary Project
Working Title: The Magnificent Espersons
Project Web Site: under construction
Synopsis: The Mellie Esperson Documentary Project will be comprised of a one-hour documentary film and companion multimedia programs examining the life of Mellie Esperson. Mellie was an extraordinary woman who achieved exceptional business success in Houston at a time (1920-1950) when few women had any presence on the business scene. Mellie was honored in 1930 by the Women's Advertising Club of Houston as the city's most successful businesswoman. She also gave back to the city as a major donor to the Museum of Fine Arts , the Little Theatre, and the Houston Symphony.
The documentary film will look at Mellie within the historical context of the drama and struggle of the birth of modern Houston . This was a period when men like Jesse Jones, Roy Cullen, George and Herman Brown, and Gus Wortham were shaping the city’s destiny. Mellie was well known and respected by these powerful visionaries, and they considered her an equal member of their exclusive club.
Mellie’s history is also a great love story. Her deep affection for her husband and business partner, Niels Esperson, is personified in a Houston landmark, the Esperson Building . Neils had begun its planning just before his death as a monument to the city that had helped make him and Mellie very wealthy. When he unexpectedly died, Millie took up the reins of their oil and real estate businesses and completed the construction of the Esperson Building.
Fourteen years later, Mellie would build a companion, literally and figuratively, to the Esperson Building . The Mellie Esperson Building sat next to the “Neils” joined on thirteen floors. It was a way for her to never be too far from the embrace of her beloved husband. Nellie became such a fixture in her building that even today there are stories that her ghost haunts its halls and elevators at night.
Tragically, by the day of the “Mellie’s” grand opening, Mellie herself was not able to witness the ribbon cutting; she was totally blind by this time. But true to her tough nature, she insisted that she be lead through the ceremonies, and she continued to run the Esperson empire for several more years, signing checks by feel and walking to work downtown from her apartment in the Warwick Hotel while her chauffer following nearby in her car.