Colorado list reaches 100

With Arvada and Merino supplying identified Meskers #99 and #100, Colorado becomes the latest state to reach the 100 Meskers plateau, joining Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas. Iowa should be there soon with 94 currently on the list while New York is also within reach with 76 documented facades.

The Mesker from Merino, the Ashcroft & Brown Building (1908) at 120 Colorado Avenue, would not have been identified were it not for the rendering of the building that appeared in the 1909 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog. The concrete block building is missing its pressed metal cornice, which aside from the slender intermediate sash columns was the only attributable element. But even that is a stretch; the building simply doesn’t look like a Mesker facade even in the rendering. Perhaps the cornice was never installed; it doesn’t really appear to be missing and it’s not atypical for the renderings to not exactly match the executed works. This would mean that the Mesker work was confined to the storefront and hidden structural steel elements. Concrete block front designs, like that of the Ashcroft & Brown Building, were introduced on the last page of the company’s testimonial catalog from 1905. They were the only designs offered in the entire catalog and were dubbed “the new idea in store fronts, constructed of concrete blocks, also showing iron sash in first story instead of wood sash.” While the 1905 designs were still highly ornamental and the only real difference from their brick front counterparts was the concrete block wall surface, as the first decade of the 1900s rolled on, the decadence of the Victorian era continued to decline in popularity and the simpler, more utilitarian appearance, as that of the Ashcroft & Brown Building, became more desirable.

Rendering of the Ashcroft & Brown Building in Merino, Colorado, as it appeared in the 1909 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog.
Rendering of the Ashcroft & Brown Building in Merino, Colorado, as it appeared in the 1909 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog.

Unlike the other “100+” states, which were historically the top five purchasers of Mesker products, Colorado was ranked as just the 23rd leading buyer with a combined estimate of approximately 825 Mesker facades. 625 of these were by Mesker Brothers Iron Works bought at a total of $90,181.49 between 1885 and 1908 (ranking #14 on the company’s charts). The remaining 200 were by George L. Mesker & Co. (rank #23). So while 725 Meskers are still at large, if you will, the percentage of identification in Colorado has been more than satisfactory.

Here’s the breakdown of the 100 facades in Colorado (download full inventory here):

  • 81 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
  • 19 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
  • 36 complete “house fronts” (34 MB & 2 GLM)
  • 4 demolished (all by MB)
  • 39 towns (28 with MB, 8 with GLM, 3 with both) – Ouray being a hands-down favorite with 14 surviving examples, including Wrights Hall (1888), one of the best Mesker fronts in the country.

And below are some favorite examples from the Rocky Mountain Empire:

Wrights Hall, Ouray, Colorado. Built in 1888 with a magnificent facade by the Mesker Brothers Iron Works of St. Louis, Missouri. It is the earliest Mesker facade in Ouray and the region and having impressed many building owners, it can be partly credited for the large number of succeeding Mesker facades in town.
600 block of Main Street in downtown Ouray has several Mesker Brothers fronts in a row. The Jeffers Building of 1890 (far left of the photo) is particularly interesting for its custom-designed facade, but the cornice and pediments of the Duckett’s Market are some of the best surviving elements anywhere.
Masonic Hall (1887), 630 Main St, Alamosa, Colorado. The galvanized iron upper story by Mesker Brothers Iron Works is one of the oldest surviving examples in the country. Image courtesy of flickr member pathensch.
131-133 East First St, Salida, Colorado. Outstanding double-front manufactured by the Mesker Brothers Iron Works of St. Louis, MO. There are several other examples of their work in Salida, all very nice.
1323-27 Greene St, Silverton, Colorado. Great facade with a George Mesker storefront and cornice. Inside there’s an original pressed-metal ceiling also manufactured by the Evansville, Indiana, firm. Silverton boasts several other Mesker examples from both Mesker companies and is only 20-miles-of-the-most-breathtaking-scenery away from Ouray.

Update (Aug. 23, 2013)

Thanks to a historic postcard sent to me by Ken Wilson we can clear up a few assumptions regarding the Mesker in Merino. The 1909 image depicts the building shortly after completion; aside from the upper story window replacement and covered display windows, it remains remarkably intact. First, the name of the owners/builders was slightly misspelled in the Mesker catalog (not uncommon), so the correct name is ‘Ashcraft & Brown’. Secondly, the cornice depicted in the rendering was never installed and I am still having a rather difficult time finding any attributable elements on the facade. The Mesker parts must be structural (steel girders above the storefront openings) and perhaps the simple lintel cornice, millwork, and glass were also shipped from Evansville.

Ashcraft & Brown Building, Merino, Colorado, as it appeared on a 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of Ken Wilson.
Ashcraft & Brown Building, Merino, Colorado, as it appeared on a 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of Ken Wilson.

4 thoughts on “Colorado list reaches 100

  1. Roger

    Congratulations to the Centennial State for its centennial Mesker! I had looked for the Mesker in Merino several months ago when I saw it listed on the Google Earth database, but didn’t see anything that looked like a Mesker. Now I see why. Thanks for posting the article. Roger

  2. ken Wilson

    I have a 1909 photo of the Merino CO bldg. It’s on a postcard with a related message. Can post the photo if you like

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