For thirty years, beginning in the 1940s, Perle Mesta reigned over Washington, DC society, hosting expensive parties which brought together a mix of people with the sole purpose of having fun, “Whether I give a party in New York or London or Hollywood or Washington, I like to have guests who are in the thick of things,” she said.
She was born Pearl Mesta (she changed it to the more exotic Perle later in life) in Michigan in 1889 and moved to Oklahoma City with her father William Skirvin, oilman and owner of the Skrivin Hotel which was also their family home. She left town in 1917 and married steel baron George Mesta who soon left her widowed with a substantial fortune which, when combined with her father’s inheritance, made her one of the wealthiest women in America.
Perle moved to Washington because she was active in women’s rights and empowerment and she quickly learned she could increase her influence by bringing important people together in a relaxed atmosphere. She became very close to Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and Truman even made her Ambassador to Luxembourg. Her place in history was assured when legendary composer Irving Berlin created a Broadway musical based on her life, Call Me Madame, in which she was declared “the hostess with the mostes’.”
This neighborhood was originally called University Addition beginning in 1902 but had fallen on hard times by the early 1970s. Neighbors came together then to form the Comeback Neighborhood Association to aid them in improving living conditions and in historic preservation. Each home received a plaque for the front porch when it was renovated, and a quilt was sewn with a square representing each home. In cooperation with the City, Perle Mesta Park was created in 1975 on ground occupied by derelict homes. And in 1977 the Comeback association acknowledged that the neighborhood had indeed come back by officially adopting the name of the new park for their neighborhood association. Today Mesta Park is a visible reminder of what neighbors can accomplish when they work together.