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Esperson Buildings: Historic Houston Structures

I live in Houston and love writing reviews of the local restaurants and stores I visit with family and friends.

Clear view of top of Niels Esperson Building

Clear view of top of Niels Esperson Building

Historic Houston Buildings

Come along with me and learn about the Esperson Buildings in the central business district of downtown Houston.

The first building originated as a commemorative. This memorial became the tallest building in all of Texas as well as west of the Mississippi River. It ranked as the third-largest in all of America back in the year 1927. It was and still is called the Niels Esperson Building.

Looking up at this building through a car window

Looking up at this building through a car window

Niels and Mellie Esperson

This successful power couple met and got married in Oklahoma back in 1893. In 1903 they moved to Houston.

Niels and his wife, Mellie, became immensely wealthy. The Texas oil industry was the source of much of their wealth. Niels was an early developer of what was called the Humble oilfield. As Texas crude oil gushed up from the ground and their bank accounts ballooned, the Espersons expanded their interests to include real estate.

Mellie continued her interest in oil, real estate, and other business ventures after her husband died in 1922. Her vast holdings included land, some of which is now the location of the Houston Ship Channel.

Mellie Esperson was an active participant in the Houston Chamber of Commerce, as well as many other organizations. She was a great supporter of the Houston Ship Channel, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Houston Symphony.

Niels Esperson Building

Mellie wished for this first memorial building named after her husband Niels to be architecturally distinctive. She traveled to Europe to get some design ideas. She liked a particular building in Rome that was built in 1502 by Donato Bramante. It marks the spot in which St. Peter had been crucified. It is a small temple referred to as a tempietto.

A video below shows this historic structure in Rome.

Italian Renaissance Architecture

Mellie employed architect John Eberson to transform her ideas into plans to be executed.

Thus it was that Italian Renaissance architecture with columns, urns, and terraces with a crowning six-story tiered monument on the top of the building became a distinctive part of downtown Houston. Gold leaf added to the luxurious crowning adornment of the tempietto and illumination at night gave it even more prominence. The Niels Esperson building is 32 stories tall and rises 410 feet from the ground.

Much taller skyscrapers now exist in downtown Houston and have for some time. Fortunately, they are built some distance away. So these Esperson buildings can still be viewed without being dwarfed by adjacent structures.

Mellie Esperson Building

Completed in 1941 was the adjacent Mellie Esperson Building. Built during the Great Depression, it offered the most considerable amount of office space in one structure at that time. It also had central air conditioning, which was a first.

The Mellie Esperson building is 19 stories tall, rising 272 feet from the ground. She used the same architect, John Eberson plus his brother Drew, to draw up the designs for her building. Mellie Esperson is carved upon “her” building, and she had Niels Esperson inscribed onto “his” structure. Mellie died in 1945. Her remains are in Forest Park Cemetery.

Ownership and Management

Cameron Management now owns and operates the Esperson Buildings. They own other classic buildings in downtown Houston as well.

These buildings will long stand as testaments and memorials to this wealthy and influential couple who left their marks upon Houston. The address is 808 Travis St., Houston, Texas 77002.

My original linocut of the Esperson Buildings

My original linocut of the Esperson Buildings

My Linocut of The Esperson Buildings

I created a limited edition linoleum cut art print (linocut) of the Esperson Buildings and titled it Crowning Tribute. It is available for purchase at Perimeter Gallery in Houston, Texas.

Detailed View of the Top of the Niels Esperson Building


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 24, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

Gaudi's work was indeed, visionary! We saw much of his architectural wonders in Barcelona. To my eye, the top of the Niels Esperson building looks more classical. I hope you are enjoying your day, and thanks for your comment.

manatita44 from london on February 24, 2020:

I don't really know if there's anything like it in London.They remind of Gaudi, but again he was very visionary.

Nice work and great legacy.

Robert Sacchi on February 17, 2020:

You're welcome.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 17, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

Thanks for the compliment on my linocut. I already have featured the ones that I have done, except for commissioned pieces, on HubPages.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 17, 2020:

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your interest in learning about the Esperson buildings in Houston.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 17, 2020:

This is beautiful architecture and I am most impressed with your linocut. You shout do a hub about how you’ve gotten into theat (if you haven’t done it already) and how others can start it as a hobby.

Robert Sacchi on February 16, 2020:

A good look at some of the historic buildings in Houstion.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 16, 2020:

Hi Liz,

Thanks for the compliment on my linocut. The Esperson buildings are one of many beautiful and historic buildings in downtown Houston that I chose to feature. I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about them.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 16, 2020:

This is a fascinating article. I really appreciate the biographical detail and background. Your linocut is impressive.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 14, 2020:

Hi Linda,

Interestingly, the Niels Esperson building was once the tallest in Texas. I appreciate the unique architecture at the top of it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 14, 2020:

This is another enjoyable article about Houston. I found the history of the Niels Esperson Building's design especially interesting. Your linocut is lovely, Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 14, 2020:

I am glad that you liked this Ruby. Yes, Houston is a beautiful city! (Smile)

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 14, 2020:

This was an interesting read, Houston is a beautiful city. Thanks for the tour.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 14, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Yes, Houston is now the 4th largest city in the U.S., and will soon become the 3rd largest in the next few years, given our rapid rate of expansion.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 14, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

It is a pleasure to show off more of our city to you, Pamela. Most of the more modern buildings contrast in style to this earlier version with the temple-like crown.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 14, 2020:

Did I read somewhere that Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S? Is that true? You don't think of Houston when thinking of large metro area. Shows you how little I know. :) Thanks once again for the tour.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 14, 2020:

Houston is such an interesting city, Peggy. I like the architecture and your pictures are great. We don't have anything quite like these building in Jacksonville.