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Drive-by Architecture

The Niels and Mellie Esperson Buildings
Houston's "His & Her" Skyscrapers

Letters from the family of Hugh White Johnston

The Niels and Mellie Esperson Buildings, page 1
Friday, April 06, 2001 11:49 PM
Mr. Troesser, Our Johnston family really enjoyed the article on the Neils Esperson Bldg. The decorative masonry is also a tribute to the work of my husbands grandfather Hugh White Johnston. We are not quite sure how the Johnston family knew Mr. Eberson, maybe through the connection of the Johnston/Davis family owning a brick factory and pottery plant in Ohio. Hugh and family moved to Houston due to the contracting by Mr. Eberson to build a home in River Oaks that was a replica of Monticello. He after finishing that job remained here and did design work for some of the homes in the MacGregor area. The Neils Esperson Building was his last masonry job before the Depression hit. He was the crew foreman for the building of the design frames for the beautiful art work on the building. So we have many times viewed the beautiful building. Ironically, Hugh White Johnston is also buried in
Forest Park Cemetery.

Hugh died a "broke" man, the depression ended the Johnston's grand days of living on Heights Blvd. A sad testament to a man whom had such creative talents. Sincerely, The Johnston Family

class photo 1911

Post card photo c.1911.

According to Russell Davis Johnston, youngest son of Hugh White, the school was referred to as Central School and was located in the Montrose area near the University of St. Thomas. In this class photo are the Herman children and Brown children. Rusell on the front row far right with X on shirt. Howard Hughes stands behind him in black suit and white tie.The Kirby brothers are in the front row (left to right) first and third child. Teacher is Miss Davis.
Photo courtesy Johnston Family
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Saturday, April 07, 2001 9:00 AM
Not meaning to be rude, but the last name is Johnston, Scot not Swede, I can still hear my husband say. There is one cousin whom is still living that I will contact and see if there are any additional information. I thank you for your thoughtfulness, I know my children have always marveled to know that their great grandfather had a part in the Esperson Building. Hugh died in the latter part of the 30's on that I will have to check also. Before my father-in-law Russell Davis Johnston died, he reminisced many hours regarding his youth. They moved from East Liverpool/Wellsville, Ohio area when Russell was 5 years old, 1910. So his memories of Houston in the oil boom days were vivid. The beautiful mansions that dotted the different streets. Many were on 5 acre estates, one such is the Kirby Mansion that is located between Pierce and W. Gray . He "schooled" as he phrased it, with the Kirby Boys, Howard Hughes, Herman Children and the Brown Children. I have a photo of the class about 1911 that I can send to you if you wish. I must admit at the time he was relating all this to me -- 1970 to his death in 1978 -- some of the stories I just kind of put on the back shelf, you know the "Yes, Papa that sounded nice" or "Yes, that was funny." As time has moved on some of the discoveries that have been made in regards to the mention of the "covered over grave yards" along the bayou have come to be factual and other highlights of the Boom days, I have gone humm -- he was actually giving me a verbal history lesson -- not just the ramblings of an old one remembering happenings the way they would of liked to have been. I will get back in touch with you. Thanks, Ginger Johnston
Johnston family

Children of Hugh White Johnston, c. 1915
Oldest Mary Robert on the left. Russell on the bottom left,
sister Ailene on the right, and dog "Bob"

Photo courtesy Johnston Family
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Saturday, April 07, 2001 4:59 PM
Here you go on the pictures, have noted on the scan what was explained and written on the back of them. I did speak to my husband's cousin. He said, " as far as any other buildings downtown he did not know. When he was a young boy his Mother, Ailene drove him by the Neils building many times as his Dad's dentist office was not far from. His Dad was Dr. Thomas A. Blackstock, DDS, his office was in the old Medical Arts Bldg. On several occasions when out near the MacGregor Way area she would drive down the Blvd and point out the different homes his Grandpa Hugh had built. These homes were located facing Sims Bayou. Ailene Johnston Blackstock is still living. She is 96 years old. She is in a nursing home now as she is very senile." (Me, I think she is just being very quite, as you would have to know Aunt Ailene -- woman of many words when necessary)

I do remember the area he is speaking of very well. As my Aunt and her husband, Theo J. Krieger lived on So. MacGregor Way. His family owed the Krieger Motor Car Company. Where the dealership was located is now where the Humble Bldg. sits. His property backed Sims Bayou. They were beautiful elegant homes and most were on acre plots. It is my understanding after years of neglect of the area, that some are buying the old mansions and restoring.

I did get a laugh on the statement from the people in England. I have heard persons call them the Meils and Nellie Buildings. It is nice to know that they at least knew it was husband and wife. But on you hearing all the way from England, that is a wow.

Thanks again for your interest in our family and best of luck on the continuing issues of Texas Escapes. It is a wonderful informative site. Traveling Texas on the web.

Sincerely, Ginger Johnston

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