It was one of the original thirteen states that founded the United States of America, but thanks to a rather interesting Mesker Brothers Iron Works facade in Lancaster, New Hampshire becomes the forty-ninth state with at least one identified Mesker. Other states with just one example are Alaska, Nevada and Vermont. Hawaii is the only remaining state without any documented examples.
Perhaps the reason why it took so long to identify an example in New Hampshire is because the state, and the Northeast region in general, was one of the lowest ranking purchasers of Mesker products. According to a 1915 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog, the company sold 48 storefronts in the state, ahead of only Rhode Island (37) and Alaska (17). Comparatively, a projected number of Mesker Brothers Iron Works facades is 23, only slightly more than Vermont (14), Rhode Island (12), Delaware (6), and Alaska (1). Opportunities for locating more Meskers in New Hampshire are very limited so this is indeed a very welcome find.
The facade itself is unusual and appears to be a customized arrangement. Very few Mesker Brothers catalog designs accommodated corner towers or turrets so this instantly increases the likelihood of a special design. The motifs themselves are all typical, with one notable exception – the engaged upper story columns have only one rosette per pedestal, instead of the usual two. This appears to be a deliberate original condition rather than a subsequent alteration. Another oddity is the use of a single dolphin panel on a facade of this size. It seems that a more appropriate design would have continued the pairing of columns and rectangular sub-panels found on the right, though the end result is certainly more interesting if slightly less “correct.” Finally, the thin horizontal panels below the upper story windows appear to have been chosen in order to tie in with the clapboard siding on the side elevation. They also emphasize the facade’s length. While the extent of storefront alterations is unclear, there remains at least one original column with bolted-on cast iron ornamentation and base plate with the maker’s mark. Based on the motifs used the facade appears to be from the late 1890s.
Thank you to Mary Schreiber for the photos of this wonderful building.
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