1898 catalog
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1898 catalog

Story of enframement

A minor variation among the many designs for galvanized upper story facades offered by the Mesker Brothers Iron Works was a composition incorporating an enframement or a decorative border around a group of windows. The rectangular frame was of a standardized design featuring a wide band of a repetitive plant-like motif with an outer egg-and-dart … Continue reading

Pages 5 through 20 were perforated.

This 1892 catalogue

In contrast to the numerous patents held by Mesker Brothers (Bernard and Frank), there were no patents found to have been issued to George L. Mesker & Co. But the iron works did apply for at least one. The company’s 1892 catalog featured an ingenious yet simple method of choosing facade designs. The pages showing … Continue reading

Grainfield Opera House (1887), Grainfield, Kansas. This is one of the best and earliest Mesker Brothers facades in the country, with a close counterpart in age and design found in Wrights Hall in Ouray, Colorado. Most of the motifs found here, as well as some compositional features such as the semicircular window openings, only appeared in Mesker catalogs for a couple of years.

100 plus recorded in Kansas

Kansas is the latest state to break the 100 Meskers mark, thanks to a large batch of facades found by Roger Waguespack. The group of the latest re-discovered buildings includes several towns and no particular example can be bestowed the (meaningless) honor of #100, with the total as of the date of this post sitting … Continue reading

First State Bank, Winchester, Illinois. Constructed circa 1898 by Frost & Hubbard, using a cast iron and wood storefront and galvanized sheet-metal lintel and main cornices by George L. Mesker & Co., Evansville, Indiana. Image courtesy of Chuck Frost.

There’s no point in hiding

In documenting historic buildings, Mesker and non alike, we always look for manufacturer identifications and original building owner names. To discover them is always exciting but since they are essentially signs, the only uncertainty lies in whether they survive and not whether they were intended to be seen. There are, however, other labels and inscriptions … Continue reading

Radulovich Block (1892), Tucson, Arizona. This impressive Mesker Brothers "house front" stood on the northeast corner of Congress and State Sts. in downtown Tucson until it burned during an 1898 fire. Interestingly, the one-story building that replaced it also featured sheet metalwork by Mesker Brothers. It too no longer exists. Image from the University of Arizona.

1,000 “house fronts” and more

Lost in the recent updates was another milestone – the identification of the 1,000th “house front.” The various Mesker categories and subtypes are described in detail here, but in summary “house fronts” are what Mesker Brothers (from St. Louis) referred to as buildings with a full sheet-metal facade. Buildings of this type are typically one … Continue reading

Patent no. 478,974, for a building front. Issued on July 12, 1892, this. Image from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Behind the iron curtain

While its use as decorative facing for buildings was perhaps the most dramatic use of the material, the principal exterior application of ornamental sheet-metal in commercial architecture was for cornices. Prior to sheet metal, wood was the primary material for cornices in small towns, with the exception of when stone was used by wealthier building … Continue reading

Lebanon_KY_202 W Main St

3,000 Meskers found worldwide!

Another milestone has been reached. Mesker facades #2,997 through 3,000 come from Lebanon, Kentucky. Two of the buildings are brick fronts with galvanized sheet-metal window hoods and cornices by George L. Mesker & Co. (126 West Main St. and the adjacent Clark Building). Another brick front at 215 West Main St. features a cornice by … Continue reading

John Goedert Meat Market, 322 Main St., McGregor, IA. Installed over an 1850s building in 1889, this two-story complete front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works is virtually the same today as it appears in this historic photo from 1902. Image courtesy of Barbara Corson.

Land of the Rolling Prairie (and 100 Meskers)

Recent finds in Dysart, Eldora and Reinbeck supplied several Mesker Brothers brick fronts and now the Iowa list has 100 Meskers. 100 is but a fraction of the estimated 2,473 Mesker facades that originally graced Iowan buildings, ranking the state as the sixth largest purchaser of Mesker products. 1,882 of  these were by Mesker Brothers … Continue reading

Rendering of the Ashcroft & Brown Building in Merino, Colorado, as it appeared in the 1909 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog.

Colorado list reaches 100

With Arvada and Merino supplying identified Meskers #99 and #100, Colorado becomes the latest state to reach the 100 Meskers plateau, joining Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas. Iowa should be there soon with 94 currently on the list while New York is also within reach with 76 documented facades. The Mesker from Merino, the … Continue reading

119 SE Fourth Street, Evansville, IN. Cast iron columns by International Steel and George L. Mesker & Co at the storefront level of the Berman Building (1912).

Crescent City Rivals

Meskers had many competitors over the years. Some were imitators, with varying degrees of success, while others were innovators in their own right. But only one competing enterprise was begun by three former employees of George L. Mesker & Co. The International Steel & Iron Construction Company of Evansville, Indiana (and later Chicago, Illinois) was … Continue reading


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