Earlier this week a Mesker storefront was identified at 4273 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis, Missouri. This shouldn’t be a surprising discovery in the hometown of Mesker Brothers Iron Works. But it is. The storefront is only the second extant Mesker example in St. Louis. More interestingly, it is by the George L. Mesker & Co. from Evansville, Indiana. (The other Mesker facade is by Mesker Brothers Iron Works and is located at 9900 Gravois Road). The building was photographed by Paul Sableman (flickr name pasa47) who is documenting cast iron storefronts around St. Louis. Check out his cast iron storefronts set on flickr for many great surviving examples from around the country.
How these storefront columns came to St. Louis is less relevant than why. Why would anyone pay for shipping them from Evansville when a whole slew of local foundries could’ve provided an equally sufficient product? Pullis Brothers Iron Works (also known as T.R. Pullis & Sons and T.R. Pullis & Bro), Christopher & Simpson (also known as J. Christopher & Co.), Koken Iron Works (also known as Scherpe & Koken, Koken Graydon & Co. and Scherpe, Koken & Graydon), Banner Iron Works, Union Iron & Foundry Co., Globe Iron & Foundry Co., Victor Iron Works, Standard Foundry Co., St. Louis Architectural Iron Works, Gerst Brothers Manufacturing Co, Chester Iron & Foundry Co., Meyerpeter & Lelaurin, Kilpatrick & Gray, South St. Louis Foundry, and Mesker Brothers Iron Works are just a few local iron works options much closer than Evansville. Not all of these companies had catalogs so there’s one reason why an owner could have chosen a more distant supplier. Perhaps there’s a deeper story to explain why these columns are at this location, but all things being equal they really shouldn’t be there.
On the other hand, this anomaly is more of a technicality, since there is another surviving Evansville Mesker in Webster Groves (extremely proximate to St. Louis), with additional catalog-advertised (unconfirmed) locations in Dardenne and Union, and steadily increasing number of towns as one gets further away from the city. If building owners there chose an Evansville foundry over locally abundant suppliers why couldn’t an owner in St. Louis proper? This simply proves that nothing is off limits and that prefabricated architecture can be found in places that defy conventional wisdom.
Since these Mesker columns were just recently spotted, there are undoubtedly other treasures to be rediscovered. And thanks to Paul and others like him, that’s just a matter of time.