100 plus recorded in Kansas
Kansas is the latest state to break the 100 Meskers mark, thanks to a large batch of facades found by Roger Waguespack. The group of the latest re-discovered buildings includes several towns and no particular example can be bestowed the (meaningless) honor of #100, with the total as of the date of this post sitting at 113.
Kansas Meskers identified thus far are an impressive and interesting group, including some very early works (Opera House in Grainfield, Union Block in LeRoy). Perhaps the most famous (or infamous?) is the C. M. Condon and Company Bank (1890) in Coffeyville, Kansas. As if the outstanding Mesker Brothers facade packing so much ornamentation into fairly small quarters wasn’t enough, the bank was the site of the last Dalton Gang robbery on October 5, 1892 (the gang was attempting to rob two banks at once; the other was First National Bank). As they tried to escape, four members were killed by a marshal’s posse and Emmett Dalton was wounded and captured (see images at the end of the post showing the storefront after the robbery). Since the focus of this initiative is to recognize the Meskers’ architectural significance, I often forget to state the obvious, which is that these structures preserve other stories, mostly of local, and occasionally of wider interest and significance. Together with the architecture, they surely must possess the ability to capture admiration and respect. They captured mine long ago.
Historically, Kansas building owners very much liked Mesker offerings. Kansas ranked as the 8th leading buyer of Mesker products with a combined estimate of approximately 1,889 facades. 1,502 of these were by Mesker Brothers Iron Works bought at a total of $213,337.51 between 1885 and 1908 (ranking #5 on the company’s charts). The remaining 387 were by George L. Mesker & Co. (rank #16).
Here’s the breakdown of the 113 facades in Kansas (download full inventory here):
- 95 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
- 17 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
- 1 by both
- 61 complete “house fronts” (50 MB, 11 GLM)
- 13 demolished (11 MB & 2 GLM)
- 71 towns (57 with MB, 10 with GLM, 4 with both) – Wilson has the most with 5.
And below are some favorite examples from Kansas:
Grainfield Opera House (1887), Grainfield, Kansas. This is one of the best and earliest Mesker Brothers facades in the country, with a close counterpart in age and design found in Wrights Hall in Ouray, Colorado. Most of the motifs found here, as well as some compositional features such as the semicircular window openings, only appeared in Mesker catalogs for a couple of years.
Union Block (1887), LeRoy, Kansas. This impressive and early “house front” by Mesker Brothers Iron Works may unfortunately not survive much longer; the sky is visible through the windows. Image courtesy flickr member jimsawthat.
Schermerhorn & Lang Building (1893), 2504 Avenue E, Wilson, Kansas. Impressive corner building with a Mesker Brothers full metal facade on the primary elevation and cornice with patented galvanized window hoods along the side brick elevation. It is one of five extant Mesker facades in Wilson. Image courtesy of flickr member Nancy Baym.
217 W. Main St., Logan, Kansas. Galvanized upper story with bays and cornice manufactured by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of flickr member whitewall buick.
Clements, Kansas. One-story front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works with stamped brick siding panels on side elevations. Despite storefront alterations and neglect, the unmistakably Mesker cornice remains. Image courtesy of flickr member fireboat895.
2238 US Highway 166, Peru, Kansas. This small frame structure features sheet metal ornamentation by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. The motifs appear too large for this building (intended for a true two story facade), which is accentuated by the rich color scheme. Most unusual is the use of the blind balustrade panels underneath the short windows.
307-309 Broadway, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Adjacent buildings with parapets clad in sheet metal panels and cornices by George L. Mesker & Co. Interestingly, the right storefront features columns by the same, while the left storefront has columns by Mesker Brothers Iron Works; the combination is an extremely rare occurrence. Image courtesy of Kerry Davis.
C. M. Condon and Company Bank (1890), Coffeyville, Kansas. This cabinet card by Glass & Parker shows a fantastic corner structure with a complete array of Mesker Brothers products including patented storefront columns, galvanized upper story with pediments, cornices, and window hoods. However, the banks true fame (or infamy) is that it was robbed by the Dalton Gang on October 5, 1892. As they tried to escape, four members were killed by a marshal’s posse and Emmett Dalton was wounded and captured. Image courtesy of Kansas Memory.
C. M. Condon and Company Bank (1890), Coffeyville, Kansas. Another cabinet card shows a close up of the storefront showing bullet holes in the glass after the Dalton Gang robbery on October 5, 1892. Image courtesy of Kansas Memory.