The McNairy County Historical Society has discovered several of the Buildings on Court Avenue with the Meskers Brothers Cast Iron nameplate (see pictures) and storefronts still visible.
A Mesker is any building that displays the pressed metal, steel, cast and wrought iron architectural details created by either of the two Mesker Companies around the turn of the last century.
From the 1880’s through the 1910’s these two manufacturing giants, Mesker Brothers Iron works and George L. Mesker & Company provided these colorful storefronts that can still be found today. The Mesker Brothers were able to improve their techniques by using galvanized sheet metal that was much easier to ship than the cast iron elements of their competitors.
They had an annual catalog, took orders and shipped by rail to their customers with local carpenters installing these storefronts. One brother worked from Evansville, IN and the others worked from St. Louis, MO. Mesker storefronts have been identified across the United States but especially in the Midwest.
Only about 3500 Meskers are known to survive out of more than 50,000 constructed. The Meskers used a rosette, a morning glory and the fleur-de-lis motif for their facades. Circular medallions and hanging wreaths were also used from the tip of the roofline to the sidewalk.
Check out the Kennedy Building, which appears to have had a full storefront but there is no nameplate to identify it as a Meskers. The recessed doorway of “Rumor Has It” has the date 1894 stamped at the entrance, probably the year it was built. But, no Identification as a Mesker.
Cast iron nameplates on the building fronts allow for easy identification of a Mesker, nameplates on the Selmer buildings are noted from both locations.
The recessed doorway was also a Mesker invention, providing shelter for shoppers and valuable window space for the showcase of goods.
The Meskers that remain offer insight into the Industrial Age of progress and an example of what we can retain from our past with proper maintenance and care.
As the new century began the desire for the decorative storefronts faded away and simpler cleaner lines of buildings was the order of the day.
David Mesker, grandson of Frank Mesker, still resides in St. Louis and is the guardian of the family collection of correspondence, records, catalogs and photos.
The Illinois State Preservation Office maintains a database of all Meskers that have been identified.
So, take a walk down Selmer’s Court Avenue, and also, a quick trip on Highway 64 East to Adamsville and see the beautiful Meskers storefront there on Main Street, and enjoy a piece of history from 130 years ago.
The Historical Society thanks these Mesker building owners for their foresight in preserving this part of McNairy County History.
McNairy County Historical Society