Mighty in Michigan

There are a lot of Mesker fronts in the Midwest. The latest proof is Michigan, now officially with over 100 identified Meskers.

Historically, Michiganders purchased quite a few Mesker products, ranking 15th nationwide with a combined estimate of approximately 1,041 facades. Fronts supplied by Mesker Brothers Iron Works netted a total of $44,739.16 in receipts between 1885 and 1908 for approximately 407 facades. Mesker’s best year for Michigan jobs was 1907, with $4,132.34 in net receipts. The projected number of Mesker Bros. installations rank #25 on the company’s charts with the expenditures at #29. However, the results were far below the marketing effort: 143,853 catalogs distributed in the state from 1888 to 1909, which ranked 9th in the nation and with 21,287 in 1902 alone. George L. Mesker & Co. outdid its St. Louis counterpart, claiming to have sold 634 facades in the state, which ranks very highly at #6.

Below is the breakdown of the 101 facades identified so far in Michigan (download the Excel inventory for a complete listing):

  • 50 by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (MB)
  • 51 by George L. Mesker & Co. (GLM)
  • 31 complete “house fronts” (17 MB, 14 GLM)
  • 12 demolished (9 MB, 3 GLM)
  • 11 are one-story in height (4 MB, 7 GLM), 81 are two-story (41 MB, 40 GLM), 7 are three-story (4 MB, 3 GLM), and 2 are four-story (1 each)
  • 46 towns (16 with MB, 21 with GLM, 9 with both)—most surviving Meskers can be found in Calumet (13), South Haven (9), Galien and Petoskey (each with 5).

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

J.W. Isakson Building (1894), 431 5th St, Calumet, MI. Classic and intact galvanized “house front” by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

Hermann Block, 111 5th St, Calumet, MI. The impressive masonry facade is topped by a delicately embossed galvanized iron cornice by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

St. Jerman Building (1891), SE corner Oak and 7th St, Calumet, MI. All iron work (cornices, window hoods, columns) by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

Steinbach Block, on W. Middle St, Chelsea, MI. Galvanized iron cornices by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of Flickr member Eridony.

O’Rourke Building, 206-210 S. Cedar St, Ewen, MI. These two matching pressed metal fronts by George L. Mesker & Co. were purchased by the same owner five years apart—1909 (right) and 1914 (left). Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

118 N. Cleveland Ave, Galien, MI. This little facade packs a lot of decorative punch thanks to cast iron columns and galvanized iron cornice by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of Flickr member Kevin Dooley.

216-218 S. Bridge St, Grand Ledge, MI. Cast iron columns and embossed metal facade by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of Flickr member Eridony.

130 S. Main St, Leslie, MI. Galvanized iron cornice by George L. Mesker & Co. with a wonderfully colorful paint scheme. Image courtesy of Flickr member Eridony.

Geo T. Arnold Bldg./Chippewa Hotel (1902), Mackinac Island, MI. At four-stories and occupying an entire city block, it is quite possibly the largest galvanized sheet-metal front made by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of Flickr member creed_400.

Understandably, the impressively enormous Arnold Block was one of the most advertised of George L. Mesker & Co. fronts, appearing regularly in catalogs between 1903 and 1906. The above rendering and testimonial are from the 1905 testimonials catalog.

A.D. Paalzow Block, 407-411 1st St, Menominee, MI. Late 1880s galvanized “house front” by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

311 E. Lake St, Petoskey, MI. Intact full iron front with a characteristic pointed bay by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Image courtesy of Flickr member Eridony.

316 E. Mitchell St, Petoskey, MI. Very large front by Mesker Brothers Iron Works, with an unusual arrangement of motifs (possibly due to a subsequent remodeling). Image courtesy of Flickr member Tourismguy.

Mueller-Stannard Building, 78 National Ave, Rockland, MI. Aside from infilled window and storefront openings this galvanized iron facade by George L. Mesker & Co. has great integrity. Image courtesy of Roger Waguespack.

300 block of Center St, South Haven, MI. South Haven has at least 9 surviving Mesker facades, two of which can be seen here, both by George L. Mesker & Co. Image courtesy of Flickr member artistmac.

On 11th St, Wayland, MI. The metallic finish on this Mesker Brothers Iron Works front helps to accentuate the rich level of relief ornament. The characteristic dolphin or fish panels are installed upside down. Image courtesy of Flickr member Eridony.

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