Burlington Feast

A quick jaunt to Wisconsin during Thanksgiving week and voila! – plus ten Meskers just like that. Burlington and Lake Geneva were my two stops and they were not chosen at random. George L. Mesker & Company testimonials catalog from 1905 provided a building owner’s name for each town. And since I was already in Kenosha and with time to spare… In any case, I was hoping to confirm the existence (or subsequent demolition) of the two buildings listed in the catalog. I was pleasantly surprised by Burlington, which has a great downtown to begin with. In addition to a surviving George Mesker facade (though not the one mentioned in the catalog), Burlington has seven buildings with facade components by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Eight Meskers plus an awesome lunch at Grater Tater was a great prelude to Thanksgiving!

Lake Geneva’s downtown was also very impressive and bustling with shoppers and tourists. Building at 260 Broad Street with a George Mesker cornice could be the Button & Jenkins Building listed in the 1905 catalog, but impossible to confirm without conducting some local research. Directly across the street, at 253 Broad Street is an example of a different architectural pre-manufacture altogether – Sullivanesque terra cotta. Another Mesker example can be found at 728-734 West Main Street, with galvanized iron window hoods (or caps) by Mesker Brothers Iron Works.

Neither Burlington or Lake Geneva Mesker examples have Mesker storefront columns with maker’s marks. They are either obscured, removed, or were never there to begin with. They were identified entirely through design motif attribution.

With subsequent help from Don Vande Sand, Vice President of the Burlington Historical Society, and the Society’s incredible online image archive, I located two additional although no longer extant Mesker facades. A lone Mesker Brothers cornice existed at 154 E. Chestnut Street. Much more impressive was a full facade by George L. Mesker & Company from 1896, likely purchased by local builder Charles Lucius Graham (1833-1911), who was mentioned in the Mesker company’s 1905 testimonials catalog. The facade was at 549 Milwaukee Ave and adjacent to the surviving George Mesker example, visible on the photo below.

The building at 557 Milwaukee Ave is the only remaining in Burlington with ornamentation by George L. Mesker & Co. Built ca. 1906.
The cornice is conventional enough but the turret displays a custom motif arrangement.
132 W. Chestnut, Burlington, WI. Cornice by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. One of seven Mesker Brothers examples in Burlington.
The only Mesker Brothers upper facade in Burlington.
Another building (ca. 1892) with a cornice by Mesker Brothers Iron Works.
Close up of the Mesker Brothers cornice at 481 Milwaukee Ave in Burlington.
Despite severe alterations the Weiler Block at 404-408 N. Pine Street retains its galvanized sheet-metal cornice by Mesker Brothers Iron Works.
Adjacent buildings with Mesker Brothers cornices. The building at 152 E. Chestnut (right) also has the company's patented adjustable window hoods above the second story windows.
Close up of the Mesker Brothers cornice at 152 E. Chestnut in Burlington.
Similarly to a few others in Burlington, this example on N. Pine Street has also been heavily altered. But the Mesker Brothers cornice remains intact.
This 1908 photograph reveals another Mesker facade in Burlington. Building at 549 Milwaukee Ave (second from the right) used to have a complete "house front" by George L. Mesker & Company. Built in 1896, it is likely the building referred to in the 1905 George Mesker catalog, with C.L. Graham as builder. At far left is the original appearance of the Mesker Brothers Iron Works facade at 525 Milwaukee Ave. Image courtesy of the Burlington Historical Society.

2 thoughts on “Burlington Feast

  1. Pingback: Cornice gallery | Mesker Brothers

  2. Pingback: America’s Dairyland | Mesker Brothers

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