Land of Opportunity

W. Rush Ave., Harrison, AR. Three adjacent, no longer existing, building fronts by Mesker Brothers Iron Works at the NW corner of the square, circa 1912 (photograph mistakenly labeled as SW corner). Image courtesy of the Boone County Museum.

Due to a recent trickle of discovered Mesker buildings, there are now 100 of them in Arkansas. Sadly, these latest additions are largely demolished and, as in the case of Harrison’s square, were identified only thanks to historic photographs.

Historically, Arkansans were some of the largest purchasers of Mesker products, ranking 7th nationwide with a combined estimate of approximately 2,035 facades. Their preference was clearly for fronts offered by Mesker Brothers Iron Works which netted a total of $241,624.97 in receipts between 1885 and 1908 for approximately 1,845 facades. The most profitable year was 1904, with $19,824.37 in receipts. The projected number of Mesker Bros. installations rank #5 on the company’s charts but the expenditures were #4, trailing only Texas, Missouri, and Illinois. Such high sales were not by chance—Mesker Brothers clearly targeted Arkansas as the land of opportunity and distributed a total of 105,343 catalogs in the state from 1888 to 1909, with 23,933 in 1907 alone. In contrast, George L. Mesker & Co. sold just 190 facades in the state, which ranked a respectable but distant 24th.

Here’s the breakdown of the 100 facades in Arkansas (download the Excel inventory for a complete listing):

  • 78 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
  • 22 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
  • 36 complete “house fronts” (32 MB, 4 GLM)
  • 19 demolished (11 MB, 8 GLM)
  • 41 are one-story in height, 56 are two-story, 2 are three-story, and one—the Tower Building in Little Rock—is at 18 stories and the tallest Mesker facade known to have been erected.
  • 48 towns (29 with MB, 15 with GLM, 4 with both)—Eureka Springs has the most with 14 (all MB)

And below are some favorite examples from the Wonder State, chosen from available photographs and appearing alphabetically by town:

Argenta_AR_421-425 N Main St
421-425 N. Main St., Argenta, AR. Galvanized metal cornices and window hoods by Mesker Brothers Iron Works.
Berryville_AR_201 Public Sq
201 Public Square, Berryville, AR. Window hoods and cornices by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Jim Winnerman.
Canehill_AR_on State Hwy 45
On State Highway 45, Canehill, AR. A Mesker Brothers’ galvanized iron front in imitation of quarry faced rock is a fitting choice for a building in Arkansas. Image courtesy of James Whitlow.
Eureka Springs_AR_54 Spring St
Spring St., Eureka Springs, AR. With 14 facades, Eureka Springs has one of the finest Mesker groupings in the country.
Fayetteville_AR_7 S Block Ave
Mrs. Young Building (1887), 7 S. Block Ave., Fayetteville, AR. Spectacular and early surviving full metal front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works.
Tower Building, Little Rock, AR. Image courtesy of John Cramer.
Tower Building (1960), 323 Center St., Little Rock, AR. The metal curtain wall was manufactured by Mesker Brothers and is the tallest and most modern Mesker front ever constructed. Image courtesy of John Cramer.
B.H. Harrison Masonic Temple, on Mock St., Prairie Grove, AR. The Masonic Temple (right) was constructed in 1903 with a dolphin-paneled Mesker Brothers facade while the second building (left) was constructed at a later date but with a matching front. Also surviving are decorative awning brackets. Image courtesy of Flickr member Mike Seither.
Springdale_AR_128 W Emma Ave
128 W. Emma Ave., Springdale, AR. Classic Mesker Brothers facade with the characteristic sheet-metal pilasters on double-rosette bases.
Van Buren_AR_713-715 Main St
713-715 Main St., Van Buren, AR. Galvanized iron fronts by Mesker Brothers Iron Works.
J.C. Berry’s Dry Goods Store (1903), 331 Old South Main St., Yellville, AR. Complete Mesker Brothers “house front” installed over both corner facades. Most owners did not want to incur the additional expense of sheathing the side elevation in decorative metal, but presence of storefronts indicates the display importance of both facades. The building is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Image courtesy of Flickr member Jimmy Emerson.

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