Forever West

Rock Springs, WY.

I.O.O.F. & Chicago Meat Market, 515-525 N. Front St., Rock Springs, WY. While this image only shows part of the storefront, the impressive two-story facade was constructed in 1909 with columns, window hoods, and a cornice made by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. The storefront has been altered but the elements above remain. Image courtesy of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.

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):

1 N. Main St., Buffalo, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

1 N. Main St., Buffalo, WY. Classic “brick front” by George L. Mesker & Co. with a wood and cast iron storefront, and galvanized steel window hoods and cornice above. It is one of five remaining George L. Mesker & Co. facades in town; at least three others are no longer extant. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

86 S. Main St., Buffalo, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

86 S. Main St., Buffalo, WY. The upper story facade with “dolphin panels” was manufactured by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. It is just one of two surviving Mesker Brothers facades in Buffalo; the adjacent Shaver Block at 90-94 S. Main St. is the other and features a cornice. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

George Kuntzman Building, Encampment, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

George Kuntzman Building, Encampment, WY. Aside from the wooden storefront, the facade is clad in galvanized metal, even the end piers. The entire front was supplied by George L. Mesker & Co. This is the only remaining Mesker facade in Encampment; at least three others featured cornices by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

912 Main St., Evanston, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

G. Ewer, Jr. Building, 912 Main St., Evanston, WY. The 1907 facade retains cast iron storefront columns and an intricate galvanized metal upper story by George L. Mesker & Co. A rendering of the facade was featured in the company’s 1907 catalog. It is one of three known remaining Meskers in Evanston; at least four others no longer survive. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

Green River, WY.

Morris Mercantile Company Building, 1 N. Center St., Green River, WY. The corner structure featured a full Mesker Brothers front on the main elevation and a cornice along the brick side, separated by a corner turret. The building burned in February, 1917. Image courtesy of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.

200 block of Main St., Lander, WY. The Lander Commercial Company Building (1890) at 278 Main St. (left) and the Knights of Pythias Building (1894) at 258 Main St. (far right) both had galvanized sheet-metal elements made by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming (click on image for larger view on AHC Digital Collections page).

Fremont Hotel (1891), 285 Main St., Lander, WY. The four-story hotel had a storefront with patented steel columns by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. The small one-story facade at left was likewise made by the same brothers. Today, only two of Lander’s seven identified Mesker fronts remain. Image courtesy of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming (click on image for larger view on AHC Digital Collections page).

305 S. Second St., Laramie, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

305 S. Second St., Laramie, WY. In an extremely rare occurrence (o.5% of all identified Mesker facades), this building features elements from both Mesker firms – the storefront columns were patented and made by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, while the galvanized metal cornice was supplied by George L. Mesker & Co. An identical half was mirrored to the north but the facade was lost in renovation. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

Holliday Building (1910), SE corner of Second and Garfield, Laramie, WY. The four-story building featured storefront columns by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, as did the older adjacent W.H. Holliday Co. Building to the right. Both structures were lost in a 1947 fire. Image courtesy of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming (click on image for larger view on AHC Digital Collections page).

Laramie Grocery Company (1903) and an addition (1905) Laramie, WY. The large corner building featured storefronts and cornices by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, lost during a circa 1940 Safeway remodeling. The long side elevation of the original 1903 building retains its Mesker cornice. Image courtesy of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming (click on image for larger view on AHC Digital Collections page).

Newcastle, WY.

Cambria Mining Company, 200 block of W. Main St., Newcastle, WY. This “most elegant block in town” was actually in Newcastle and not in Cambria. The above rendering and testimonial are from the 1905 testimonials catalog of George L. Mesker & Co.

H. Rasmusson Funeral Parlor and Furniture Store, Rawlins, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

H. Rasmusson Funeral Parlor and Furniture Store, Rawlins, WY. Wonderfully intact corner facade made by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, only one of two remaining in Rawlins; at least seven others no longer exist. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

Rock Springs, WY.

Partial view of the 400 block of N. Front St., Rock Springs, WY. The building in the foreground is the Freeman Building, also known as Miller Pharmacy, which stood at 421-425 N. Front St. Fourth building down at 445 N. Front St. was Pete’s Cigar Store and Thom Thum Candy Co. Both buildings with facades supplied by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Rock Springs used to have at least 14 Mesker facades, now just 3 remain. Image courtesy of the Rock Springs Historical Museum.

Rock Springs, WY.

403-405 N. Front St., Rock Springs, WY. The Elk-Bar (left) and Lyric Theatre (also known as Paris Cafe) in the background of this 1912 4th of July Parade, both featured storefronts, cornices and pressed-brick panels manufactured by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of the Rock Springs Historical Museum.

162-166 N. Main St., Sheridan, WY. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

162 and 164-166 N. Main St., Sheridan, WY. Although very similar, these two adjacent facades manufactured by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, were installed separately and in two stages. Note the subtle, but nonetheless present differences between the cornices. There are four other Meskers in town with at least two additional that were demolished. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

Sheridan Commercial Company Building.

Sheridan Commercial Company Building, Sheridan, WY. This impressive facade, manufactured by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, was erected in stages between 1902 and 1910. This circa 1910 view shows the completed building which stood at 303 Broadway Street.

Sheridan Commercial Company Building

Sheridan Commercial Company Building, Sheridan, WY. Tragically, the building and its dominant facade were lost during a fire on January 14, 1915. Image courtesy of the Smith Collection, Sheridan County Museum.

Thermopolis, WY.

J.L. McCoy Building (also known as the Keystone Hotel), Thermopolis, WY. The impressive edifice was erected in 1902 at the NE corner of 6th and Warren, of local sandstone and with a storefront and a galvanized sheet-metal upper story by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. The panels at either end feature the dolphin motif. The building was demolished in the late 1950s. Image courtesy of the Hot Springs County Museum & Cultural Center.

Thermopolis, WY.

Thermopolis Steam Laundry Company (1898), 530 Arapahoe St., Thermopolis, WY. This circa 1920 photo shows a Mesker Brothers Iron Works cornice, plus an impressive sign! It was one of five known Mesker fronts in Thermopolis; none remain. Image courtesy of the Hot Springs County Museum & Cultural Center.

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