Awning, canopy, marquise
5800 block of Crew Ave., Rochelle, TX. Adjacent Mesker facades (Mesker Brothers Iron Works on the left, George L. Mesker & Co. on the right), with self-supporting metal awnings that were also supplied by the respective Mesker companies. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
For two centuries, American commercial storefronts often required various shading devices for natural climate control, protection of show window displays and shoppers, and enhancement of building appearance. By far the most popular of these were fabric awnings, but metal was also an available option although not widely acknowledged in contemporary scholarly documentation. Both Mesker companies offered various metal canopy and awnings designs with both decorative and simpler utilitarian brackets (for self-supporting awnings) and support posts. The roofing or awning material was corrugated galvanized iron or steel, which upon painting provided a durable solution. George L. Mesker & Co. offered to provide canvas or duck covering in lieu of iron, if desired, or to provide the structural frame only, without covering of any kind. These turn-of-the-20th-century metal awnings, though rare, can still be found among their more prevalent fabric counterparts. When considering an appropriate replacement or compatible new awning, fabric is rightfully the go-to solution. But as these Mesker awnings prove, metal can also be a historically appropriate option and not just for industrial buildings or for mid-20th century storefronts whose flat aluminum canopies are so indicative of that era (and which Meskers also made).
Steel awnings and brackets, including prices. 1910 Mesker Brothers Iron Works catalog.
Old Exchange National Bank, Okawville, IL. The 1910 bank is intact with Mesker Brothers Iron Works’ storefront columns, cornice, and a self-supporting metal awning with a corrugated metal roof.
Old Exchange National Bank, Okawville, IL. The curved edge awning is supported by decorative metal brackets.
113 Main St., Clayton, NM. Variation of a Mesker Brothers iron awning, with curved decorative brackets. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
Wrought iron awning frames with corrugated iron covering. 1902 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog.
As illustrated in this excerpt from a 1913 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog, the company also offered duck (canvas) awnings.
Brookport, IL. Iron awning and pipe supports made by George L. Mesker & Company from Evansville, IN. The Masonic Lodge, which is adjacent, has an awning made by the other Mesker company from St. Louis.
220 S. Main St., Palestine, IL. In addition to George L. Mesker & Co.’s cast iron storefront columns and a galvanized sheet-metal cornice, the building features a second story balcony with wrought iron railings, supported by Mesker’s wrought iron pipe awning posts. The self-supporting metal awning above the second story windows may also have been supplied by Mesker.
220 S. Main St., Palestine, IL. Close up view of Mesker’s wrought iron tubular awning post and decorative grill below the balcony.
106 W. Cumberland, Greenup, IL. One of several facades by George L. Mesker & Co. in Greenup featuring a two-story verandah with tubular awning posts.
In the 1920s, while Mesker Brothers Iron Works devoted itself nearly exclusively towards steel window manufacture, George L. Mesker & Co. continued to offer complete storefronts and related components. As the storefront designs and materials changed—from wood and iron to steel, copper, marble, and Vitrolite—so did the awnings. Mesker designed and offered suspended ornamental canopies, which they called marquises (same as marquees). Mesker marquises were painted steel with optional glass globes and drops, and zinc crestings. A marquise could have been furnished with a heavy skylight frame (i.e., a glass roof) so it did not darken the display windows, but metal roofs and ceilings were more common. For less money, a metal-clad wooden canopy with a composition roof instead of metal, was also available. As to their popularity? In the 1928 catalog the company claimed that the “Mesker Marquise are performing service in every State in the Union […].” In the 1930s, the Mesker canopies took on a more streamlined and modernistic appearance and incorporated white metals instead of painted steel, and neon. In the 1950s, these modern canopies were employed in the company’s Multi-Park, “a sectional, all-steel parking shelter of modernistic design.”
Cover of the 1925 George L. Mesker & Company catalog. A featured element of this spectacular arcaded storefront is a suspended canopy, a Mesker Marquise.
E.B. Bassett Building, 605 S. Main St., Hopkinsville, KY. Image of the Mesker Marquise, installed on a much older building, was featured in the 1925 catalog. Unfortunately, the storefront and marquise no longer survive.
Several pages from the 1927 George L. Mesker & Co. catalog detailing the Mesker Marquise.
Arches Building, 201 E. South 2nd St., Findlay, IL. Corner marquise by George L. Mesker & Co.
Arches Building, 201 E. South 2nd St., Findlay, IL. Close up of the Mesker marquise.
Nox Theater, Carrier Mills, IL. Marquise by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of the Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana.
121 E. Second St., Owensboro, KY. This modernistic marquise by George L. Mesker & Co. for the McAtee, Lydane & Ray Department Store still survives. Image courtesy of the Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana.