The Lyon building and other delights

As you walk up Broadway past the old Saw Mill building, you might notice two bronze letters in the sidewalk spelling out the word “NO.” That’s because you’re looking at it backward. Things make sense at the building’s main entrance, where a large stone/concrete lion with a dozen layers of paint looms over the door and the word “LYON” is spelled out in metal.


With that in mind, you can set out downhill from the doorway and see the letters rightly as the second half of LYON.


Or go uphill instead to see their counterpart. I have to assume that both of these once had four letters.


The building began in 1916 as Lyon Moving & Storage. It was quite grand, in the old Oakland style. Today, there are 53,000 storage companies in America, most of them quite bland and not a single one, I’m sure, with its name on the sidewalk in bronze.

In other developments, I spotted two more treasures during the week.

Blake & Bilger Company


38th Avenue at Opal Street

This is probably the best-preserved Blake & Bilger mark in the city. The firm was a major builder of Oakland’s first sidewalks, from the first decade of the 20th century, but today there are maybe a dozen of these marks left.

1926 – J. H. Fitzmaurice (II)


1501 Harrison Street

Fitzmaurice, founded in 1922 and still going strong as a general contractor, was the first sidewalk maker in Oakland to use the barrel-shaped stamp format, which it introduced in 1926 and used into the 1950s at least. Only a handful of this stamp’s first configuration — with “OAKLAND” placed above the center — have stamped dates inside the mark. So I had to capture this one even though I have another example from the Grand Lake neighborhood.

One Response to “The Lyon building and other delights”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Harvey B. Lyon was interviewed at length about the Lyon company and the rough transcript is at the Bancroft Library. The firm was founded by his father John, but Harvey built the fireproof storage building at 3400 Broadway in 1916, “the most complete and ‘up to the minute’ warehouse of its kind in the United States.”

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