New school year | Main | Five things on a Saturday night

Saturday, August 26, 2006

In search of Meskers

What is a Mesker, you ask?

Many Main Street commercial buildings of the late 1800s and early 1900s reflect the widespread availability of mass-produced building parts, which ranged from individual components to entire building facades. While prefabricated architectural elements were available from a number of manufacturers, no other companies better exemplify this niche than the Mesker Brothers Iron Works of St. Louis, Missouri, and George L. Mesker Company of Evansville, Indiana. They specialized in ornamental sheet-metal facades and cast iron storefront components, which were ordered through catalogs and easily shipped by rail to any interested building owner. Their extensive product lines not only featured embossed sheet-metal panels and cast iron but also entire storefront assemblies, as well as tin ceilings, fences, skylights, and freight elevators. (Got Mesker?)

These buildings and building elements (Meskers, as they're called), are all over the U.S., but mostly in the Midwest. After reading the Mesker identification guide linked on the Got Mesker website, I'm sure I've seen Meskers in the past, but passed them off as inconsequential. No more. From now on, I'll be looking for Meskers everywhere I go. Despite the fact that so many of our old buildings have been torn down, there's got to be some in Springfield.

Do you have a Mesker in your town? Darius Bryjka of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is building a database of Meskers and would like to hear from anyone who knows of one (his contact info is on the Got Mesker? website). The site doesn't say, but I'm pretty sure he's only interested in Illinois locations. So, maybe someone should start a database for other states.

Suddenly, I have a new appreciation for sheet metal.

Posted by Marie at August 26, 2006 8:03 PM