"If your town has a Mesker fašade, we
would like to know about it," said Robert Coomer, agency director.
The agency's website,
features a new section entitled
Mesker?" This includes several photographs of Mesker buildings,
as well as an entire
1904 Mesker catalog and an
identification guide that can be downloaded as PDF files. [To download Adobe Reader for the PDF
files, click here.]
The goal is to identify as many
Mesker buildings as possible and incorporate them into an
ever-expanding database. This will help recognize the historic
significance of the Mesker companies in the shaping of Illinois'
architectural fabric. Information on Mesker buildings should be
passed along to Darius Bryjka of the Illinois Historic Preservation
Agency at (217) 782-8221.
"Meskers," as they are often called,
are found across America. However, because the companies were based
in the Midwest, they are particularly plentiful in Illinois and are
part of the state's rich architectural history.
The Mesker Brothers Iron Works of
St. Louis, Mo., and the George L. Mesker Company of Evansville,
Ind., produced prefabricated architectural elements and building
facades from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The two firms, owned
by brothers but operating independently, best demonstrate the
mass-produced building parts trade of the turn of the century.
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The Meskers specialized in
ornamental sheet metal facades and cast-iron storefront components
that were ordered through catalogs and easily shipped by rail to any
interested building owner. Their extensive product lines also
featured entire storefront assemblies, fences, skylights and freight
Made of galvanized steel and cast
iron, durable Mesker facades often survive despite the occasional
neglect and lack of maintenance. While not all buildings may feature
elaborate sheet metal facades, individual building components, such
as cornices and window hoods, are quite common throughout the state,
especially in smaller communities.
Numerous Mesker buildings have
already been identified in Illinois. Communities with "Meskers"
include Aledo, Arenzville, Ashland, Belleville, Brocton, Brookport,
Cairo, Carrollton, Carthage, Clay City, Dwight, Elizabethtown,
Elkhart, Galena, Golconda, Greenville, Jacksonville, Macomb,
McLeansboro, Mount Carroll, Mount Sterling, Murphysboro, Nauvoo,
Newman, Oakland, Odin, Old Shawneetown, Pana, Pinckneyville,
Pittsfield, Sparta, Staunton, Sublette, Taylorville, Tuscola,
Vandalia, Versailles, Viola, Virden, Virginia and Xenia.
Historic Preservation Agency news release]