100+ Meskers found in New Mexico

When we document 100 Mesker facades in a state, we celebrate it. It’s an arbitrary milestone that has little to do with the historic number of installations but it’s been a tradition on these here pages for some time. Thanks largely to Roger Waguespack’s research efforts, New Mexico is the latest state to join the 100 club, with 108. On a sad note, only 29 of them (27%) survive. Hopefully, this ratio can be improved in the future.

Historically, New Mexico was not a large purchaser of Mesker products, ranking 21st nationwide with a combined estimate of approximately 843 facades. Owners favored fronts offered by Mesker Brothers Iron Works which netted a total of $89,069.21 in receipts between 1885 and 1908 for approximately 726 facades. The best year was 1906, with $9,527.31 in net receipts. The projected number of Mesker Bros. installations rank #13 on the company’s charts but the expenditures were #15. Not bad given a comparatively low marketing effort of 15,685 catalogs distributed in the state from 1888 to 1909, with 3,194 in 1907 as the top mark. While the number of catalogs may seem high, it ranks just 41st. In contrast, George L. Mesker & Co. claims to have sold only 117 facades in the state, which ranked 33rd among the states.

Below is the breakdown of the 108 facades in New Mexico (download the Excel inventory for a complete listing):

  •  99 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
  •  8 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
  • 1 with components by MB and GLM (both)
  •  62 complete “house fronts” (56 MB, 6 GLM)
  •  79 demolished (73 MB, 6 GLM)
  •  61 are one-story in height (56 MB, 5 GLM), 45 are two-story (41 MB, 3 GLM, 1 both), 2 are three-story (MB)
  •  30 towns (23 with MB, 2 with GLM, 5 with both)—Silver City has the most surviving facades with 7; Aztec has 5 and Raton has 4. Roswell had at least 25, the largest number of buildings with Mesker Brothers Iron Works material of any community in the country, but they were all demolished.

And below are some favorite examples of surviving Meskers from the Land of Enchantment, appearing alphabetically by town (again, huge thanks to Roger who provided all the images):

919 N. New York Ave, Alamogordo, NM. The paint scheme does not do this great Mesker Brothers Iron Works facade any justice. The large end panels feature the ubiquitous baroque-inspired dolphin or fish design. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
121-123 S. Main St, Aztec, NM. Adjacent full “house fronts” by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Facade on the right with “dolphin panels.” Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
J.M. Randall Building (1907), 117 S. Main St, Aztec, NM. A rarity in the Mesker world, featuring components from both Mesker companies. At the time of this post, it is the only known such example in New Mexico and one of only 28 in the country. The storefront and second story bay windows are by George L. Mesker & Co. but the cornice is by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
113 Main St, Clayton, NM. The Mesker Brothers elements are limited to the metal canopy/awning over the storefront. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
113 Main St, Clayton, NM. Close up view of the decorative awning bracket, manufactured by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
Rawlins Building, 515 Railroad Ave, Las Vegas, NM. Classic example of a Mesker Brothers Iron Works complete metal “house front,” with great integrity. The current owners are planning to rehabilitate the building and facade. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
Mesilla Valley Store, 2060 Calle Principal, Mesilla, NM. One of only three confirmed surviving facades with components by George L. Mesker & Co. in the entire state. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
134 S. First St, Raton, NM. Great and intact example of a Mesker Brothers facade, including the patented storefront columns. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
Mrs. Grengeldow Building, 136 N. Second St, Raton, NM. Featuring galvanized sheet-metal bays, window hoods, and cornices manufactured by George L. Mesker & Co., the building’s rendering was featured in the company’s 1905 testimonials catalog (right). Building photograph courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
208-212 W. Broadway, Silver City, NM. Impressively long and nearly completely intact facade by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.
104-108 N. Texas St, Silver City, NM. Whimsically painted galvanized sheet-metal cornice by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

4 thoughts on “100+ Meskers found in New Mexico

  1. Wow! This info about Meskers in Arizona is such a wonderful story, punctuated by the impressive numbers and and data — no doubt the product of many long hours over records. Beyond the amazing range of Meskers used in NM, two minor things stood out for me that I was curious about… First, it’s amazing that you were able to find figures on the number of catalogs distributed! Are there figures for the rest of the states during that time period? I’m so curious to know about how those figures shift around the country, as well as know a round figure for the total distributed nationally and internationally. Second, Roswell as a site of the most maskers is fascinating! When did they all go in? I’m guessing this town sprang up quickly and Mesker was the way to go? Thanks for a great post, Darius (and Roger for the hours of research!).

    1. Thanks Kirin! I may not be able to fully answer your first question in this reply but will probably cover it in a future blog post. The short answer is that the surviving accounting journal of Mesker Brothers Iron Works, also known as Ben’s Bible, does contain numbers of catalogs distributed in each state; this information is literally alongside the sales/receipts information. The catalog distribution often took drastic shifts from year to year and between states likely reflecting the Meskers’ shift of focus from one state to another in any given year. I have not yet come across any information about why such shifts occurred although the preceding post (Dear Sir:) can provide some clues as to what methods Mesker used to develop their marketing strategy. As far as Roswell is concerned, I will defer to local experts to explain how the town developed but in my opinion, it really wasn’t any different from other boom towns. Yes, the town did spring up quickly and Mesker was indeed a way to go, just like in many other towns. The only difference here is that Roger was able to document 25 Meskers through historic photos and Sanborn maps. I know there are other examples of similar concentrations, perhaps even higher, that just haven’t yet been rediscovered.

  2. Thomas Clayton

    Thank you for the information. The following is a brief history on the Rawlins building in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

    The historic 1898 building is presently being renovated and restored. The structure was built in 1898 by William W. Rawlins, an English saloon keeper – his name is proudly displayed at the top of the building.

    Based on 1860 England census records, William W. Rawlins was born in Middlesex, England in November 1846. At the age of 21 he immigrated to the United States in 1867 – just after the U.S. Civil War. His parents were William W. and Emma Rawlins (born approximately in 1810 and 1814).

    Based on accounts in the local paper, Rawlins was a saloon keeper in Las Vegas in the 1890’s — running the Antlers saloon on the corner of 6th Street and Douglas Avenue. He married Josephine Rhodes in 1899. Upon information from U.S. Census records, Josephine was from Louisiana and had a daughter from a previous marriage, Pearl Mary Rhodes. In 1902, four years after construction of the building, Rawlins died in Philadelphia. His wife, Josephine, died several years later in 1913. Both are buried in a non-descript grave site in the Masonic Cemetery in West Las Vegas.

    The building has a Mesker metal façade on the second floor. In its early years it was a boarding facility and served as living quarters for the Harvey Girls who worked at the Castañeda Hotel. In 1949 Eisabel and Matilde Peña purchased the building and operated the Peña Rooming House — it has been in our family since then. It was last occupied in the late 1970’s. The building is on the register of both the National and State Historic Properties List. The plan is to restore the commercial space on the first floor and establish apartments on the second floor.

    The Rawlins is in the Historic Railroad District of Las Vegas and is directly across the street from the Castañeda Hotel which was also built in 1898. The Castañeda was recently purchased by Alan Affeldt and his partners and is in the early stages of restoration itself. Mr. Affeldt is also the owner of another Harvey Hotel — La Posada in Winslow, Arizona. In the recent years there has been an increased interest in the Harvey Hotels and the Harvey Girls and how they provided quality food service for the travelling public throughout the Southwest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

    Tom/Tina Clayton

    1. Thank you for the background history on the building! To clarify, the Mesker components on the Rawlins Building aren’t limited to the upper facade. Although it is difficult to tell whether the wooden storefront was supplied by them also (based on the current condition), I am fairly certain that the building retains their patented steel storefront columns sans the applied cast iron and pressed metal ornamentation.

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