On a recent trip to Galena, Illinois, I had the pleasure to once again observe the J.G. Schmohl Building with its superb galvanized sheet-metal front (two actually) by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, as well as the adjacent building with cast iron columns by George L. Mesker & Co. Seeing the work of the brothers side-by-side made me wonder how frequent these accidental pairings are and whether they were in fact by chance. I knew that I’ve seen them elsewhere but could not recall exactly where and how often. So just for fun, I dug into the database.
First, some ground rules. I excluded from the tally (1) buildings that were demolished, and (2) buildings that feature pairing of Mesker elements on a single building, unless they are adjacent to other Mesker fronts. In other words, to be eligible in the count the pairing must be “horizontal” or “side-by-side” and must consist of at least two buildings, each of “pure” (Mesker Bros. or George L. Mesker) or “mixed” (Mesker Bros. with George L. Mesker) persuasion. Included are mid-block buildings separated by an alleyway or narrow pedestrian way, but not by a street; the wider distance separating two corner structures simply does not produce the same side-by-side effect.
So as of today, there are 4,782 Meskers in 1,961 communities. Of these, 318 are towns with examples of both Meskers, thereby forming the eligible candidate pool. After combing through them, I found 67 occurrences in 63 towns and 22 states (see full listing at end of post). The side-by-side pairings are truly a mixed bag of almost all imaginable permutations—facades, columns, cornices—and in all stages of integrity and condition, from restored to nearly gone. Not surprisingly, Illinois has the most of any state with 20 instances including a grouping of 4 adjacent fronts in Illiopolis that is unlike anything else. A few fronts are “sandwiched” between Meskers of the opposing kind, such as in New Grand Chain (IL) or Bennettsville (SC). Unexpectedly, a handful of towns have more than one side-by-side grouping, including Emden (IL), North Vernon (IN), Bennettsville (SC), and Canton (MS) where the pairs are adjacent (or side-by-side-by-side?). Oh, what fun!
As to whether these odd Mesker pairs are purposeful or accidental, it appears to be the latter. Since the companies were independent of—and in competition with—each other, as were the buildings onto which the Mesker facades and components were affixed to, there is absolutely no perceptible evidence of any coordination efforts to place these facades side by side. It is no different than having a Mesker Brothers front adjacent to one by Scherpe & Koken, or to a George L. Mesker & Co. cornice adjacent to columns by the International Steel & Iron Construction Company. These are mere coincidences which are bound to happen when there are over 2,000 examples from each company scattered all over the country.
Below are my favorite Mesker pairs chosen from the photos that I have permission to share. There are several outstanding examples for which I do not have copyright-free images or could not find any good images, period (the Meskers in Aurora, IN, need to be photographed together; it’s a book cover image waiting to happen).
MB = Mesker Brothers Iron Works; GLM = George L. Mesker & Co; both = elements from MB and GLM
Aurora, IN. 307-311 Second Street (MB, left) and John Neff Building, 315 Second Street (GLM, right). Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Seymour, IN. 110 N. Chestnut (GLM, left) and 108 N. Chestnut (MB, right). Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Georgetown, SC. 801 Front Street (MB, left) and 803 & 805 Front Street (GLM, center and right). Image courtesy of Google Maps.
- Delta—252 Main St. (GLM) & 254 Main St. (MB)
- Pensacola—409 S. Palafox (MB) & 411 S. Palafox (GLM)
- Comer—on E. North Ave.
- Ashland—200 block of N. Yates
- Atlanta—on SW Arch (MB) & 108 SW Arch (GLM)
- Brookport—Masonic Temple on Ferry St. (MB) & adjacent (GLM)
- Carlinville—500 W. Side Square (MB) & 502 W. Side Square (GLM)
- Chrisman—State Bank Building, on Illinois St. (MB) & adjacent (GLM)
- Dieterich—100 block of N. Main (MB) & adjacent (GLM)
- Emden—219 Lincoln St. (GLM) & adjacent (MB)
- Emden—on Lincoln St.
- Flora—115 E. North (MB) & 117-119 E. North (GLM)
- Galena—213-217 S. Main (MB) & 219 S. Main (GLM)
- Harvard—50-52 N. Ayer (MB) & 54 N. Ayer (GLM)
- Herrin—115 E. Cherry (MB) & 117 E. Cherry (GLM)
- Illiopolis—520 Mary St. (both) & 522 Mary St. (both) & 524 Mary St. (GLM) & 526 Mary St. (MB)
- Kinmundy—208 S. Madison (MB) & 210 S. Madison (GLM)
- Neoga—611 Chestnut (MB) & adjacent (GLM)
- New Grand Chain—on S. Main St. (GLM, MB, GLM)
- Odin—204 Kirkwood (MB) & adjacent (GLM)
- Princeville—118 E. Main (GLM) & adjacent (MB)
- St. Elmo—409 N. Main (MB) & 411 N. Main (GLM)
- Winchester—8 E. Cross (MB) & 10-12 E. Cross (both)
- Aurora—307-311 Second St. (MB) & 315 Second St. (GLM)
- Bloomfield—12 E. Main (MB) & 24 E. Main (GLM)
- Brownstown—126 S. Main (MB) & 128 S. Main (GLM)
- Greensburg—115 W. Main St. (GLM) & adjacent (MB)
- Lawrenceburg—14 E. High (GLM) & 20 E. High (both)
- North Vernon—28 Fifth St. (MB) & 38 Fifth St. (GLM)
- North Vernon—120-126 Fifth St. (MB) & 108 Fifth St. (GLM)
- Orleans—176 S. Maple (MB) & 178 S. Maple (GLM)
- Seymour—108 N. Chestnut (MB) & 110 N. Chestnut (GLM)
- Cottonwood Falls—309 Broadway (both) & 307 Broadway (GLM)
- Meriden—109 E. Main St. (MB) & 111 E. Main St. (GLM)
- Waterville—129 E. Commercial (GLM) & adjacent (MB)
- Cynthiana—204-206 E. Pike (GLM) & 208 E. Pike (MB)
- Lawrenceburg—140 S. Main (MB) & 142-144 S. Main (GLM)
- Owensboro—112 W. Second (GLM) & 120 W. Second (MB)
- Richmond—216 W. Main (MB) & 218 W. Main (GLM)
- Wickliffe—on Fourth St.
- Thibodaux—405 W. Third St. (MB) & 407 W. Third St. (GLM)
- Millers Falls—NE corner Franklin and Main (GLM) & on E. Main St. (MB)
- Zeeland—144 E. Main St. (MB) & 136 E. Main St. (GLM)
- Canton—141 W. Peace (MB) & 145 W. Peace (GLM)
- Canton—155 W. Peace (MB) & 151 W. Peace (GLM)
- California—507 N. High (MB) & 501-505 N. High (GLM)
- Webster Groves—29 N. Gore (MB) & 35 N. Gore (GLM)
New York (1)
- St. Johnsville—on Main St.
North Carolina (3)
- Clinton—120 E. Main St. (MB) & 124 E. Main St. (GLM)
- Statesville—110 W. Broad (MB) & 108 W. Broad (GLM)
- Warrenton—135-137 S. Main (MB) & 133 S. Main (GLM)
- Delphos—240 N. Main (MB) & 238 N. Main (GLM)
- Wellston—9 E. Broadway (MB) & 11 E. Broadway (GLM)
- Kane—111 Fraley St. (MB) & 105 Fraley St. (GLM)
South Carolina (5)
- Bennettsville—100 W. Main (GLM) & 102 W. Main (MB) & 104 W. Main (GLM)
- Bennettsville—108-110 E. Main (MB) & 106 E. Main (GLM)
- Darlington—SE corner Exchange and Cashua (MB) & 114 Cashua St (GLM)
- Georgetown—801 Front St. (MB) & 803 Front St. (GLM)
- Summerton—132 Main (MB) & 124-126 Main (GLM)
South Dakota (1)
- Sturgis—1064 Main St. (MB) & 1060 Main St. (GLM)
- Selmer—137 W. Court Ave. (MB) & 133 W. Court Ave. (GLM)
- Comfort—723 High St. (GLM) & adjacent (MB)
- Rochelle—on Crew Ave. (MB) & Crew and SE Fifth (GLM)
- Seguin—109-113 N. Austin (MB) & 115 N. Austin (GLM)
West Virginia (2)
- Elkins—120 Third St. (MB) & 122 Third St. (GLM)
- Lewisburg—130 W. Washington (MB) & 102 N. Court (GLM)
- Lancaster—135 S. Jefferson (MB) & 143 S. Jefferson (both)