Thanks to Roger Waguespack’s relentless research at several Wyoming photo collections and museums, the Cowboy State now has over 100 identified Mesker facades. Since this batch of several dozen buildings were entered into the database at random over a course of few weeks, no particular example can be honored with#100, and the total as of the date of this post is firmly at 109. I’m grateful for Roger’s permission to use his contemporary images of several surviving examples. Special thanks for the use of historic photographs are extended to the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River; Rock Springs Historical Museum in Rock Springs; Sheridan County Museum in Sheridan; Hot Springs County Museum and Cultural Center in Thermopolis; and the American Heritage Center at University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Historically, Wyoming ranked as only the 32nd overall buyer of Mesker products with a combined estimate of approximately 435 facades. 339 of these are attributed to Mesker Brothers Iron Works, purchased at a total of $45,983.25 between 1885 and 1908 (ranking #28 on the company’s charts). George L. Mesker & Co. sold just 96 fronts by 1915 (rank #37). Despite these seemingly low numbers, of the Western states only Arizona (459), California (479), Montana (503), Colorado (825), and New Mexico (843) had more. Taking into account the state’s low population and small number of towns, the overall number of original Mesker installations isn’t insubstantial.
A distinguishing (and disheartening) difference between Wyoming and other states with at least 100 identified Mesker building fronts is their survival rate. 69 of the 109 facades (63%) no longer exist. This is in sharp contrast to Texas, which has the next highest demolition rate of 22% (Iowa has the best or lowest loss rate of 2%). Even taking into account the obvious, which is that the database reflects only known occurrences and not all surviving and demolished examples, it’s sad when majority of a state’s Meskers no longer exist. Inescapably, this will be norm for all.
In addition to the large number of lost Mesker fronts in Wyoming, many of them were remarkable in terms of design and scale, such as the turreted Morris Mercantile Company Building in Green River or the block-long Sheridan Commercial Company Building in Sheridan. It would seem that fires, economic downturns, or stupid men are indiscriminate against great buildings.
Here’s the breakdown of the 109 facades in Wyoming (download detailed inventory here):
89 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
19 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
1 by both
58 complete “house fronts” (49 MB, 9 GLM)
69 demolished (61 MB, 8 GLM)
21 towns (10 with MB, 3 with GLM, 8 with both) – Buffalo and Laramie have the most, each with 7 surviving buildings. Rock Springs had at least 14, but now only 3 remain.
Below are some favorite examples, both surviving and demolished, appearing in alphabetical order (by town):