East Washington Street at Southeastern Avenue, Cast Iron Storefronts

Cast Iron Façade. The cast iron façade is common to late 19th century and early 20th century commercial, storefront architecture. Made of galvanized steel and cast iron, the cast iron façade included both functional and ornamental features, incorporating cornices, window hoods, columns, and brackets. You can typically recognize one of these facades with brick accented by steel columns and beams. The cast iron façade gained popularity during this period for many reasons, including the cheap cost, availability of receiving the materials via rail, and the fireproof design.

One example of a cast iron façade is found on these commercial buildings along East Washington Street at Southeastern Avenue (just west of I-65/I-70). The structure on the right is a typical presentation, with a first floor storefront with a steel frame and columns with glass windows. An elaborate, ornamental cornice tops this commercial building.

George L. Mesker Company, Evansville, IN

Throughout Indiana, you might notice cast iron façades in cities both large and small, due to, in part, the Geo. L. Mesker & Company of Evansville, Indiana. Although the Mesker Company is known nationwide, the facades remain prominent throughout Indiana. The Mesker Company would provide their facades via mail order catalog, similar to the Sears catalog. Here is a few selections from the 1900 catalog that illustrate the variety of designs available to those hoping to install their own low-cost storefront.

 

 

Examples from 1900 Catalog, George L. Mesker Company

 

 

Examples from 1900 Catalog, George L. Mesker Company

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

Poor alterations to the storefront covered up the wonderful, original cast iron façade. We plan to restore the façade as part of our building project.