Reaching New Heights
This recent discovery in York, Pennsylvania, is thanks to the National Register of Historic Places database. As more nominations get uploaded from other states, it will be a great research tool. The listing erroneously attributes the facade to George L. Mesker & Co., when in fact it was made by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. It also dates the building to 1887, but the facade appears to be slightly later—1890 at the earliest, based on available catalogs. I’ve requested a full nomination from the NPS so we’ll get to the bottom of this and maybe a Supplementary Listing Record can be issued to clarify the information.
Nonetheless, I was very happy to come across it since it is the only four-story Mesker facade I know of. Most Mesker facades were intended for buildings one to three stories in height and surviving examples reflect that. As do company catalogs, which showed very few four-story designs, although the 1894 catalog by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (by far the most extensive catalog of the company I’ve seen) did devote a number of pages to possible four-story arrangements. With a few differences, design no. 103 from 1894 appears to be the closest match to the York Dispatch Newspaper Offices (see below). All of the advertised designs could be easily rearranged to reflect existing dimensions and window spacing, in essence creating “custom” assemblages. With the exception of the catalog cover, there were no 5-story buildings shown in any of the catalogs that I know of. In contrast to the Mesker Brothers, the Evansville company did not advertise anything above three stories, and even these were limited to a few. In fact, most catalogs did not offer anything above two stories.
The cost of no. 103? The chart at the bottom of the page shows varying price points depending on the width of the building and ground floor height. The smallest size of 24 feet in width with a 12-foot first story cost $572. Adjusted for inflation (2010) this translates to $14, 226 and a ton of wishful thinking.