Mesker designing is practical!

File this under ‘miscellaneous.’ In the 1940s, the engineers of Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. developed a design for outdoor drive-in theatre screen supports, a clear by-product of the company’s structural steel fabrication. The “A” frame supports were fabricated from rolled steel structural shapes (not pressed steel sections); were of shop-riveted construction (not welded); and intended to be bolted on site upon shipping. The supports were designed for a wind load of 40 lbs. per square foot, or equivalent to a wind velocity of 100 miles per hour. Mesker included all of the necessary field bolts and heavy anchor bolts for concrete foundations. They also offered additional engineering and design services for footings. The supports were painted with one coat of rust primer prior to shipment. While the screen themselves were not included, Mesker recommended 1/4″ asbestos sheets or marine plywood for this purpose.

The supports were offered in three models, the largest (model 750 – designed for drive-ins with car capacity of 750 or more) being 70 feet tall and able to support a screen 72 feet by 52 feet in size. Shipping weight of this model was 25 tons.

For added economy, the Mesker screen supports had their backs exposed and were intended to be used mainly in situations where they were not visible. However, “in those instances where the back of the screen support is exposed to view, you will be surprised how neat the exposed structural steel appears.” I couldn’t agree more.

A partial list of installations advertised in the pamphlet reproduced below includes drive-ins in Beckley, WV; Chicopee Falls and Springfield, MA; Columbus, OH; Evansville and Indianapolis, IN; Herrin, IL; and Sandston, VA. Who knows how many were constructed and in turn survived.

Page 1 of a pamphlet produced by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. to advertise its drive-in theatre screen supports.
Page 2 of a pamphlet produced by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. to advertise its drive-in theatre screen supports.
Vintage drawing of a structural steel outdoor theatre screen support manufactured by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. from Evansville, IN. Type “B” corresponds to Model 750 – designed for drive-ins with car capacity of 750 cars or greater – and was the largest screen support offered by the company.
Undated vintage photograph of a completed Mesker drive-in theatre screen support in Springfield, MA.

2 thoughts on “Mesker designing is practical!

  1. Howard

    What didn’t these guys manufacture and sell?…do you think there is/was an id tag somewhere on one of the components specifying Mesker? I know of two drive-ins in Connecticut I might have to check out this summer…

    1. If it was made of steel and could be used for building construction, they made it. As far as tags, I’m only speculating since I have not seen these in person, but its likely that some sort of mark was placed near the ground either as a plaque (like on storefront columns) or on the steel members directly; Mesker certainly would have liked people to know that it was their product. A quick study of the structural system can also help to narrow it down; these seem more unusual from others I’ve seen. Let me know if you find one!

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