California Love

I.O.O.F. Building at 111 E. Merced Street in Fowler, California, retains its galvanized iron upper facade manufactured by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of jazzportraits.

Well, this took no time at all. Of the recently surpassed 2,000 total Meskers, 863 were by George L. Mesker & Co. In just over a month I’ve had an influx of “new” facades including this latest one in Fowler, California. The former I.O.O.F. Building erected in 1907 is the 1,000th facade by George L. Mesker & Co to be entered into the database (compared to 1,209 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works). And it’s a splendid example at that. Despite a modernized storefront, the upper story retains its intricately embossed galvanized steel cladding. The base ornament of imitation quarry-faced block is supplemented by delicate floral motifs and spiral fluted columns flanking the windows. Stylized morning glories abound the cornice. And if identification based on design is not convincing enough, a rendering of the facade was featured in a 1908 Mesker catalog. While the storefront modernization is to be somewhat lamented, far worse is the loss of three adjoining one-story Mesker facades as seen on the rendering, making this a bittersweet entry. In a very frugal and fiscally responsible approach to their architectural needs, numerous Odd Fellow lodges as well as other fraternal groups across the country purchased Mesker fronts for their buildings. The original owner or at the very least the facade buyer, J.D. Hickman, would be undoubtedly disappointed in the partial loss of his investment, regardless of the product’s affordability.

The Fowler facade is only the eighth Mesker thus far in California, and only the second by George L. Mesker & Co. I don’t expect to find that many more Evansville Meskers in the Golden State—the 1915 George Mesker catalog indicated the company sold just 142 fronts there. With a projected number of original Mesker Bros facades in California being around 330, the chances of finding examples from either company are comparatively low. Hence, despite its bruises, this I.O.O.F. facade is a welcome addition to the list. Besides, the cast iron storefront columns are still very likely in place and could be exposed during a future rehabilitation.

The I.O.O.F facade, along with originally adjacent three one-story fronts, was featured in the 1908 catalog edition of George L. Mesker & Co.

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