Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cast Iron Storefronts

131-133 East First St, Salida, CO

I found myself presented with a project of designing an old Store front. A clients wanted to build an office space next to a historic Blacksmith that he had purchased. He wanted this new office space to be a compliment to the blacksmith. He acquired an old building in another city that need to be demolished, salvage all the brick he could from this building to construct this new office space. All this so the new building would have that patina of age from day one. I was set to task to create the character of the store front that would be convincing as an old building not a new one. I began my research and discovered Mesker. Mesker? Mesker was the number one producer of metal store fronts. They offered the fronts in catalogs. You would give them measurement of your front and they would create the dramatic store fronts. They used cast iron for the main level, Windows, trim etc.. and then the upper detail were created in sheet metal. Incredible more economical and light weight. They could simulate the heavy look of the cast stone on more auspicious building for a whole lot less. They epitomize what we think of as an old main street building. At one point there were over 45,000 Mesker building in the US. with the highest concentrations being in IL and IN where the plants were located. In 2006 they had a nation wide search to locate as many of the still existing ones that are left. About half are still out there. more that have not been identified yet. In fact if you go to, you can download a google earth file that shows you the location of the all the Mesker that have been located. It's fun to drop to the street level and look at them. You can also download the old catalogs. I found these to be invaluable in my research. Unfortunately there is noone making any of these products anymore. I did do a little research and find that one of the only companies making cast iron store fronts was right here in my own state. Hence they will be creating the store front for this project. My research payed off.


Historical Home said...

I have just discovered your blog. So many interesting posts! I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

How fantastic, to salvage and re-create a lovely old building like this. I've seen so many lovely old buildings disappear over the years, to be replaced with some pretty awful, characterless generic modern architecture. It's such a shame that some of the facades at least couldn't have been saved, with modern structures hidden behind.