Mesker Automotive Buildings

Tomlinson Cadillac-Oldsmobile
Photo of a car dealership for Tomlinson Cadillac-Oldsmobile in Bartow, Florida, used in the circa 1955 marketing brochure for Mesker Automotive Type Steel Buildings by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. from Evansville, Indiana. Mesker designed the dealership and provided the sectional prefabricated building components. Original photo (c. 1955) in the collection of the Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana.

In the 1950s, Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. (formerly Geo. L. Mesker & Co.) designed and engineered several structures for the automotive industry. In addition to the Multi-Park (“a sectional, all-steel parking shelter of modernistic design”), the company offered an entire sub-class of its standard sectional prefabricated buildings intended for car dealerships and appropriately dubbed Mesker Automotive Type Steel Buildings. By then customary and synonymous with the Mesker brand was the complete customization of the structure, at least within the confines of modular and prefabricated construction. The buildings were marketed as flexible in width, length and height and able to adapt to any property dimension or shape. Mesker included all above-grade materials necessary for the erection of its metal buildings including “walk-in doors, complete with hardware, wood overhead doors and hardware, projected steel windows with hardware, glass and putty, [and] mastic for roof sheets.” Optional items for shop, paint and body buildings included “round roof ventilators, continuous ridge roof ventilators, gable louvers, plastic skylight sheets, cantilever canopies, sign space at sides along eaves and steel framed balconies.” Interestingly, because of Mesker’s structural steel prowess, framing for the showrooms was optional “as this can usually be purchased locally.”

Impressively, and beyond merely serving as building parts supplier, Mesker’s engineering department designed the complete operation of each dealership including show room arrangement. Per the circa 1955 marketing brochure: “Our Engineering Department has structural designers and automotive engineers with many years of factory and dealer experience, and are well qualified to assist in floor planning your entire property as to traffic flow, inside and outside parking, service entrance and exit, cashier location, office arrangement, rest room locations, parts department size and location, parts bin planographing, with assistance from factory and bin companies, heating and ventilation, recommendation and placing of equipment, and all other phases of dealer operation.” In fact, the design and engineering service appears to be the main reason for marketing this type of steel building separately from the many other functions it was used for including factory, farm, warehouses and commercial buildings. Without the specific automotive planning service, the buildings were not much different in appearance or construction. Recalling the prefabricated ornamental sheet-metal facades of 75 years prior, the Evansville Mesker’s importance and relevance continued to be as manufacturers AND designers.

The marketing brochure cited above likewise echoed catalogs of the past, albeit its graphic design reflected mid-20th century trends. Photographs of several completed buildings along with floor plans were complemented with testimonial letters from satisfied executives. The Mesker product line may have changed drastically over several decades but the marketing principles did not.

It is unknown how many of these Mesker dealerships were actually built. The brochure showcased the following completed or in progress projects: Southwell Motor Co., N. Toombs Street, Valdosta, Georgia; Quality Motors, N. Irby Street, Florence, South Carolina; Tomlinson Cadillac-Oldsmobile, Bartow, Florida; and Orange Buick, Orlando, Florida. Next time you shop for a Buick, be on the lookout for a Mesker dealership to boot.

(The circa 1955 marketing brochure whose sample pages are featured below is available for download from the ‘Catalogs’ page. The direct link is here).

Mesker Automotive Type Steel Buildings by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. (c. 1955).
Mesker Automotive Type Steel Buildings by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. (c. 1955). Interior spread showcasing Quality Motors in Florence, South Carolina, along with a testimonial from J. Boone Aiken, company president.
Mesker Automotive Type Steel Buildings by Geo. L. Mesker Steel Corp. (c. 1955). Construction details and features appear to be fairly typical of Mesker’s sectional prefabricated buildings.

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