Art Concrete Works

Art Concrete Works was one of those ancillary businesses that left traces all over Oakland. They made boxes for utilities. The example above is part of this blog’s banner image; it came from a PG&E box on the 4900 block of Broadway:

The firm started out in the early 1920s, down by the railroad tracks at 77 Webster Street, on the same block as Heinold’s Saloon. It presented an exhibit at the regional meeting of the American Waterworks Association in October 1922, and that’s the first record I have of its existence.

City directories offer more information. In 1926 the firm moved to a new building at 2400 Adeline Street, just off West Grand, under manager Ralph L. Gates. By 1930 Harold P. Manly had taken over, and the plant was under his steady hand through that whole difficult decade.

As of 1940, Walter B. Allen was manager, but the Internet Archive has no city directories from 1942 to 1966. The Tribune ran help-wanted ads from Art Concrete Works through the 1940s and into 1950, and there the written record ends.

But there are records on the ground that tell me more. East Bay MUD was a steady customer of Art Concrete Works, and for a while the company stamped dates on its meter-box covers!

I discovered this as I was surveying the East Oakland foothills, somewhere west of Fruitvale, and snapped a few pictures before thinking better of that rabbit-hole of documentation — I still had over half the city to cover. All I have at the moment is that image, with a 1951 date, and this one from 1954. That extends the record of Art Concrete Works to a good 32 years, a respectable life span for a company in this business sector.

How many different years are documented on those water-meter covers? Now I have another reason to visit those shady streets again, and readers, maybe you can find some examples around you.

One Response to “Art Concrete Works”

  1. Ron Says:

    We found two in our dog walk today, in the 1500 block of Trestle Glen. One is 1952, but the other is hard to read. There are two dates under the logo, which look too early to be correct since they are earlier than the house which was built in 1927.

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