Kentucky list tops 100

With four buildings from Bowling Green recently added to the database, Kentucky finally breaks the mark for 100 identified Mesker facades. And it’s about time too – Kentuckians purchased quite a bit of Mesker products, particularly those manufactured in Evansville by George L. Mesker & Co. In a 1905 testimonials catalog, the company claimed the following:

“Our business in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky has been so extensive that you will find one of our fronts in almost every town and village. Space will not permit us to reproduce many cuts, or a complete list of customers. In fact, our reputation for honest values and modern designs of store fronts is so well established in these states that many customers place orders with us unsolicited. […] In Kentucky we have furnished 853 fronts. A record we are justly proud of.”

This number continued to grow each year until it peaked at 2,646 fronts in 1915, the last year of available advertised sales data. This placed Kentucky behind only Illinois (2,917) and Indiana (4,130). An additional 503 fronts purchased from Mesker Brothers Iron Works in St. Louis (a projected number based on available data), yields a combined figure of 3,149 Mesker facades, ranking fifth in the nation. In comparison to the original number, 103 identified examples is far from satisfying…

Nonetheless, this is a great start. For what it’s worth, here’s the breakdown of the 103 facades (full inventory available here):

  • 13 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
  • 90 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
  • 10 complete “house fronts” (5 each by MB & GLM)
  • 9 demolished (all by GLM)
  • 35 towns (6 with MB, 25 with GLM, 4 with both) – Henderson alone has 26 surviving examples!

Below are a handful of the best examples from the Bluegrass State identified to date.

113 N. Main, Henderson, KY. Unusual early (mid-1880s) facade by George L. Mesker & Co., Evansville, Indiana. This is one of 26 surviving George Mesker facades in Henderson.
320 First St., Henderson, KY. Another well maintained facade with cast iron columns and sheet-metal window hoods and cornice produced by George L. Mesker & Co., across the river in Evansville. The cornice is particularly unusual with square dentils tightly flanking the inner brackets.
115 W. Court Square, Princeton, KY. Wonderful facade richly adorned with masonry and terra cotta, as well as sheet-metal ornamentation by Mesker Brothers Iron Works of St. Louis, Missouri. Image courtesy of flickr member onasill.
127 N. Main, Morgantown, KY. George Mesker’s early cornice designs from the 1880s and early 1890s were much more High Victorian Gothic in character and convincingly simulated simple but deep carvings in wood or stone. This approach later gave way to much more delicate designs characterized by shallow embossing techniques. Image courtesy of flickr member kevystew.
J.B. Benjamin Building, 116 E. Main, Providence, KY. The relatively simple facade is adorned by a galvanized sheet-metal cornice made be George L. Mesker & Co. The front’s distinguishing feature, however, are its extremely tall and slender cast iron columns, also made by Mesker. Image courtesy of Charles Melton.
Rendering of the J.B. Benjamin Building at 116 E. Main, Providence, KY, as it appeared in a 1905 testimonials catalog by George L. Mesker & Co. It was one of only a handful of listings for Kentucky, due to lack of available catalog space to reproduce all 853 fronts sold in Kentucky up to 1905.

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