Archive for the ‘ Access covers’ Category

Heating & Lighting Company

20 May 2022

2nd Street at Castro Street

This is a mystery access cover. The site is where Oakland’s original gas works was located, back in the 1800s. As I understand it, they manufactured gas by roasting coal in those days. “H & L Co” stands for “heating and lighting company,” but I expected this to have an “O” for Oakland, like the later Oakland Gas, Light and Heat Company.

The other odd bit about this lid is its scallop design, attested in only one other place, the ancient Sunset Telephone & Telegraph Company lid on 6th Street.

Spring Construction Co.

19 March 2022

19th and West Streets

I think this may be the notorious people who made a mess of things in Berkeley.

Empire Foundry

11 November 2021

38th Avenue and Redding Street

An unusual configuration from Empire Foundry.

While I’m at it, here’s a street drain plate from Empire. Don’t know where this is, because I’ve had the photo lying around for a long time.

Oakland Fire Alarm & Police Telegraph

25 April 2021

437 25th Street

The Fire Alarm Police Telegraph system was the cutting edge of public safety a century and a half ago. It was a wired system that connected battery-powered alarm boxes to transmit alarms instantly across a city. San Francisco had such a system in 1865, described in a history on the S.F. City Museum site. The 1906 earthquake led to complete upgrades in this system. San Francisco dedicated its new Central Fire Alarm Station in 1915, but Oakland was ahead of that city, having finished its fire alarm police telegraph system in 1911. A main building at 13th and Oak Streets was connected by underground cables to police stations and call boxes and fire stations across the city. “With its isolation, fire-proof construction and underground system of cables,” the Tribune reported, “the entire city might burn or be shaken to pieces by earthquake and the operation of the system would not be disturbed in the least.”

Presumably this access cover dates from that time and belonged to that system.


12 September 2019

This access cover, next to the Paramount Theater on 21st Street, combines hardware from East Bay MUD and its primary predecessor, the East Bay Water Company. The two leaves look to be the same vintage and installed at the same time. It’s my theory that when EBMUD took the reins of the East Bay’s water system in the 1920s, they inherited a bunch of plumbing stock with the EBWCo logo and just deployed it until they ran out. It helped that local foundries could quickly adapt their existing forms to the new client.


24 November 2017

North of the 19th Street BART station, the tracks curve left and emerge on the north side of 23rd Street. This is one of two access covers on 22nd Street, right next to the parking structure, that lead into the underground. I never really noticed them until one day I heard a train go by down below. Haven’t heard one since.

Perhaps there are other examples elsewhere in the system. Let’s keep track here in the comments.

Baypoint Iron Works access cover

20 October 2017

This rarity sits in the street where Highland and Wildwood Avenues meet, in Piedmont. Port Chicago was the former town just west of Bay Point where the terrible explosion of 17 July 1944 occurred. The Baypoint Iron Works existed at that time, but I have found no information about it beyond that fact. The town was taken over by the government and demolished in 1968.