Land of the Rolling Prairie (and 100 Meskers)
Recent finds in Dysart, Eldora and Reinbeck supplied several Mesker Brothers brick fronts and now the Iowa list has 100 Meskers.
100 is but a fraction of the estimated 2,473 Mesker facades that originally graced Iowan buildings, ranking the state as the sixth largest purchaser of Mesker products. 1,882 of these were by Mesker Brothers Iron Works bought at a total of $193,656.39 between 1885 and 1908 (ranking #6 on the company’s charts). The remaining 591 were by George L. Mesker & Co. (rank #7). These figures are nothing to sneeze at and they indicate that more fronts are awaiting to be rediscovered.
Here’s the breakdown of the 100 Meskers in Iowa (detailed inventory available here):
- 87 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
- 13 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
- 26 complete “house fronts” (all by MB)
- 2 demolished (all by MB)
- 46 towns (35 with MB, 9 with GLM, 2 with both) – with 9 Meskers (including seven in a row!) Bloomfield is a hands-down favorite but Osceola also has 9 known examples.
And below are some of the best found in Iowa thus far:
616-620 First St., Bonaparte, IA. Several great Mesker Brothers facades in a row. There are a total of six identified examples in town. Image courtesy of flickr member Iowa4Square.
Louis Thoma Building (1893), 106 W. Burlington Ave., Fairfield, IA. Great two-story Mesker Brothers front with a colorful paint scheme. Image courtesy of flickr member Tourismguy.
Latimer’s, 105 E. Franklin St., Bloomfield, IA. One of seven Mesker Brothers facades in a row, on the south side of the square. Image courtesy of Nick Kalogeresis.
114-116 S. Main St., New Sharon, IA. Two-story Mesker Brothers “house front” with an adjacent one-story edifice. Image courtesy of flickr member Tourismguy.
Len Jus Building, 213-217 N. Federal, Mason City, IA. Classic Mesker Brothers upper facade. Originally installed by one owner, now multiple ownership is evident by various maintenance levels. Image courtesy of Anthony Rubano.
517 Main St., Mediapolis, IA. Facade by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Despite storefront and window openings being blocked, the cast iron and galvanized components are nearly all there. Image courtesy of flickr member Tourismguy.
110 W. Main St., Washington, IA. Large three-story brick building with a galvanized sheet-metal cornice and window hoods by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Additionally, the bay window/balcony on the right has Mesker-made wrought iron railings and brackets. Image courtesy of flickr member Tourismguy.
John Goedert Meat Market, 322 Main St., McGregor, IA. Installed over an 1850s building in 1889, this two-story complete front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works is virtually the same today as it appears in this historic photo from 1902. Image courtesy of Barbara Corson.
Conrad, IA. Salvaged cast iron column ornamentation on a new brick building. Looks nice… Who needs context? (Actually, I do; hence this is not one of the 100 identified Meskers). Image courtesy of Michael Wagler.