NY State of Mind
Comparatively speaking, Mesker facades are not common in the Northeast, where there were many competitors in the architectural cast iron and galvanized sheet-metal trades. Nonetheless, 101 locations have recently been confirmed in upstate New York. Not surprisingly, none exist and likely were never installed in New York City—the closest Mesker facade to NYC in the state is in Cold Spring, some 60 miles to the north; another, slightly closer location was in Smithtown but that building no longer exists. NYC and in fact the entire state appear to be replete with cast iron and sheet-metal architectural elements, with Meskers forming but a small part of the state’s rich architectural iron works legacy (James Bogardus and Daniel Badger, anyone?). The two most recently identified locations are in Stittville and Gouverneur, two- and three-story galvanized sheet-metal fronts, respectively, by George L. Mesker & Co. of Evansville, Indiana. The facades were identified through Google Streetview and as yet, publicly available photographs of the buildings were not found.
Historically, the Northeast was the least Mesker-populated region, with under 3,000 projected installations. Pennsylvania led the region’s purchases of Mesker products with over 1,500, followed by New York whose combined estimated figure of approximately 703 facades ranked 24th in the nation. 538 of these are attributed to Mesker Brothers Iron Works, purchased at a total of $67,036.68 between 1885 and 1908 (ranking #20 on the company’s charts). The remaining fronts were supplied by George L. Mesker & Co., but the available statistics are somewhat confusing. The 1905 testimonials catalog lists 70 locations, while the maps from subsequent editions depict a steady increase in sold facades, peaking at 238 in 1911. The head scratcher begins with the 1913 and 1914 maps which are identical and show a figure of 26. Unless facades were returned to the factory, the stat was most likely misprinted and should have been 260. In 1915, the number for the state jumps to 165, still lower than the 1911 total. The resulting statistics are marred by these inaccuracies and misprints. For the time being, the latest and conservative figure of 165 will suffice, and is higher than the George L. Mesker & Co. facades identified to date. In 1915, 165 fronts ranked 28th in the nation.
Meskers in the Empire State stand out in terms of sheer scale. Majority (59) are two stories in height, but there are 39 facades that are taller, including 3 four-story fronts. Only 3 are one story in height. Among the most impressive are the Grant M. Kennedy Building in Canandaigua (GLM) and the four-story building at 83-85 Main Street in Cortland (MB). But the most significant is the Smith Block in Wappingers Falls, whose photographs perennially graced catalog covers of Mesker Brothers Iron Works from 1896 until 1914. Regretfully, only one small section of the block survives.
The 101 facades in New York break down as follows (download a detailed Excel inventory here):
- 62 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
- 39 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
- 40 complete “house fronts” (21 MB, 19 GLM)
- 11 demolished (3 MB, 8 GLM)
- 61 towns (28 with MB, 28 with GLM, 5 with both)—Geneva, McGraw, and Saugerties have the most, each with five.
Some favorites, in alphabetical order by town, are below (many others do not have publicly accessible photographs):