It may be in name only, but this storefront at 107-109 Water Street in Belton, Texas, is indeed the 2,500th Mesker facade to be entered into the national database. Despite the nameplate identifying the maker as Mesker & Brother from St. Louis, Missouri (same as Mesker Brothers), the company did not manufacture these columns but subcontracted them to another St. Louis foundry, that of Christopher & Simpson. Why? Although the exact building date has not been confirmed, it likely predates 1887, which is the year of the first Mesker Brothers storefront column patent. Prior to 1887, or even earlier that year, Mesker Brothers did not have their own column designs to offer along with sheet-metal facades and cornices so they purchased unmarked columns from other companies, or perhaps exclusively from Christopher & Simpson, and resold them as their own. There is some debate as to whether Mesker Brothers ever had a grey iron foundry of their own, even when they began selling their patented column designs starting in 1887. If that were to be true, then perhaps not even the nameplates bearing the Mesker name were actually made by them…
This Belton facade isn’t the only Mesker Brothers edifice with strangely unfamiliar columns. Several other examples are interspersed throughout the country but all share the characteristic of being built between 1885 and 1887. I’ve never insinuated that Mesker Brothers actually made every single product they sold, but that doesn’t make them any less significant. If anything, the ability to provide a product without compunction is what ultimately led to their enormous success. When they affixed these nameplates in the mid-1880s to some other foundry’s columns, they were disguising only temporary shortcomings because starting in 1887, their patented composite columns of riveted steel plates with cast iron and sheet-metal ornamentation, were nothing short of revolutionary. Take that cast-in-one-piece iron! (In contrast, George L. Mesker & Co did have a complete foundry and provided cast iron columns of their own design and manufacture).
Thank you to Roger Waguespack of Austin, Texas, for discovering this curiosity and providing additional details regarding the building.
Here are additional statistics regarding the 2,500 facades that make up the database:
- 1,353 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
- 1,124 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
- 18 by both
- 5 by J.B. Mesker & Son (JBM)
- 765 complete fronts, i.e. facades with sheet-metal panels above the storefront (600 MB, 161 GLM, 4 both)
- 231 buildings demolished (140 MB, 88 GLM, 1 both, 2 JBM)
- 1,049 communities (555 MB, 330 GLM, 164 both)
- 48 states (except Hawaii and New Hampshire)
- 2 countries (USA and Canada)
- Top five states are Illinois (868), Indiana (399), Missouri (172), Texas (128), and Kentucky (87).
3,000 is next.
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