Discoveries in the Old North State

The 100-Mesker club has a new member— North Carolina.

Historically, North Carolinians purchased a not insignificant amount of Mesker products, ranking 14th nationwide with a combined estimate of approximately 1,100 facades. Fronts supplied by Mesker Brothers Iron Works netted a total of $96,977.93 in receipts between 1885 and 1908 for approximately 608 facades. Mesker’s best year for North Carolina jobs was 1890, with $9,040.66 in net receipts. The projected number of Mesker Bros. installations rank #17 on the company’s charts with the expenditures at #13. The results were on par with the marketing effort: 96,018 catalogs distributed in the state from 1888 to 1909, which ranked 17th in the nation and with 17,000 in 1908 as the top mark. While most states typically show a significant preference towards one of the Mesker companies, North Carolina was less biased. George L. Mesker & Co. claims to have sold 492 facades in the state, which ranks highly at #12. According to the company’s 1905 testimonials catalog, D.L. Gaskill of Salisbury was alone responsible for selling 52 fronts as Mesker’s sales agent.

Below is the breakdown of the 121 facades identified so far in North Carolina (download the Excel inventory for a complete listing):

  • 55 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
  • 65 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
  • 1 with components by MB and GLM (both)
  • 42 complete “house fronts” (37 MB, 5 GLM)
  • 27 demolished (20 MB, 7 GLM)
  • 13 are one-story in height (5 MB, 8 GLM), 91 are two-story (41 MB, 49 GLM, 1 both), 17 are three-story (9 MB, 8 GLM)
  • 49 towns (20 with MB, 17 with GLM, 12 with both)—Salisbury has the most surviving facades with 14; Fayetteville has 8 and Hamlet has 7.

And below are some favorite examples of surviving Meskers from the Tar Heel State (chosen from available photos), appearing alphabetically by town:

118-124 E. Main St., Clinton, NC. From right to left are two adjacent full metal fronts by Mesker Brothers Iron Works and a cornice by George L. Mesker & Co. The “dolphin” or “fish panels” on the building in the foreground are installed upside down. Image courtesy of NC Arts Everyday.

J.L. Rogerson Building (left) at 419 S. Broad St., and J.N. Leary Building (right) at 423 S. Broad St., Edenton, NC. Adjacent facades by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Flickr member cjmuller79.

McMullen Building, 117 N. Water St., Elizabeth City, NC. A three-story full iron front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.

107 Person St., Fayetteville, NC. Full iron front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. It appears that the design continued over and adjacent building but was lost in a subsequent remodel. Image courtesy of Flickr member army.arch.

144 N. Center, Goldsboro, NC. The building features a classic facade arrangement by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Flickr member llnesinthesand.

Walnut and Center Streets, Goldsboro, NC. This October 24, 1923, photo shows several once extant Mesker Brothers facades on both sides of the intersection. From Carolina Power and Light (CP&L) Photograph Collection (Ph.C.68), North Carolina State Archives.

Main Street, Hamlet, NC. Facades by George L. Mesker & Co. still line both sides of the street as they do on this January 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of UNC Libraries Commons.

Watson & Cecil/J.W. McCrary/J.F. Ward Building, 15 N. Main St., Lexington, NC. Facade by Mesker Brothers. Today, only a single storefront column remains. Image courtesy of UNC Libraries Commons.

116 SW Main St., Rocky Mount, NC. Long commercial block front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Flickr member exithacan.

Taylor & Cuthrell Building, on NE Main St., Rocky Mount, NC. Facade by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Flickr member jessie.gladdek.

Salisbury, NC. “A few representative fronts sold by [George L. Mesker & Co.’s] energetic agent, D.L. Gaskill” featured in the company’s 1905 testimonials catalog. According to Gaskill’s letter, he sold about 48 Mesker store fronts in Salisbury and nearby Spencer, as well as additional sales in Charlotte, Concord, and Gaffney (SC). The town-by-town listing in the catalog credits him with 52 fronts. He is the only agent ever mentioned in any of the catalogs.

109 E. Broad St., Statesville, NC. Cast iron columns and a galvanized iron cornice manufactured by George L. Mesker & Co. The color scheme is extremely effective in showcasing the rich embossed detail. Image courtesy of Flickr member grouchomark40.

Tomlinson & Company Building (1093), 131-133 Tarboro St., Wilson, NC. Double Mesker Brothers front retaining its cornice pediments. Image courtesy of Flickr member historybydesign.

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