William D. Perine, Oakland’s first sidewalk maker

William D. Perine was born to a farming family in Jackson, New York in 1827 and died in Oakland in 1895. He’s buried at Mountain View Cemetery in plot 13, lot 15; at Find A Grave an annotator notes, “He was among the first to introduce cement sidewalk laying in Oakland. He was involved in litigation over the patents for years and died a poor man.” He and his wife Elizabeth had three daughters and two sons; their first two children were born in Canada. Census records have him listed as a farmer in Half Moon Bay in 1870.

Perine first appeared in the 1877 city directory as a “manufacturer of cement walks.” In 1880 his business was listed under “Artificial Stone,” the going name for concrete at the time. Modern portland cement, the binding agent of concrete, had only recently been brought into common use; in the mid-1800s cement was made by roasting naturally occurring rocks of just the right composition, mixing clay and limestone. Concrete became a leading-edge technology in the late 19th century, and San Francisco’s Ernest Ransome (founder of San Leandro’s Ransome Company) gained nationwide fame with his innovations in reinforced concrete.

In 1877 Perine lived on the west side of Myrtle Street near 5th Street. In 1880, Perine’s business was located at 1002 Broadway; he lived at the northwest corner of 4th and Alice Streets. In the directories from 1884 to 1889 he was listed as living at 809 Oak Street. In 1889 and 1892 his business address was 457 Ninth Street. By the 1890s several other artificial stone firms were in business here whose work appears on Oakland sidewalks, including Gray Brothers and George Goodman.

I have found three sidewalk stamps by Perine, none of them dated. All of them bear the 809 Oak Street address, which puts their dates somewhere in the 1880s, unless he never updated his stamp. Two of them look like the mark at the top of this post; this is the third.

In the center of the mark are two digits, presumably from the 1800s. Whatever they are, I feel confident in saying that Perine was Oakland’s first hometown sidewalk maker.

One Response to “William D. Perine, Oakland’s first sidewalk maker”

  1. Andrew Alden Says:

    I went by 1711 Chestnut the other day to make sure the stamp at the top of this post was still there. It looked just the same. The job apparently included the concrete posts on either side of the front steps.

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