Archive for the ‘ Special marks’ Category

Art Concrete Works

27 June 2021

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.

Corner: Kingston Avenue at Monte Vista Avenue

31 August 2018

If it hadn’t been late afternoon, I might have missed this yet again. Note that Kingston was called “Street” at the time.

2006 – B. R. Concrete (and Robin Hood)

16 May 2018

42 Calvert Place, Piedmont

Yesterday I finished surveying the last bit of Piedmont, the Appendix to my survey of Oakland, and so with this final sidewalk stamp my survey is complete.

I will not undertake to survey Emeryville, Alameda, Berkeley or San Leandro. However, I’ll be keeping my eyes on the ground at all times and places for various reasons. One is to scavenge any missing dates of Oakland sidewalk makers. Another is to determine answers to some nagging questions that didn’t occur to me until I was well into my survey, so there are reasons to stay alert even in territory I’ve already covered. And, of course, I’ll continue to document new stamps as they appear in years yet to come.

I’ll also stay active in researching the different sidewalk makers. I feel like I’ve barely begun that part, although I’ve published 33 “Profiles” of them so far. It involves searching genealogies and old newspapers and directories, mainly. There’s also the whole larger topic of sidewalks as part of Oakland’s history, California’s history and the history of technology.

Part of that research involves you, my readers. The people who made our sidewalks lived here, and many of them have living descendants in the area. Hearing from them in the comments to these posts has been a real joy.

I stopped posting amateur concrete markings a couple years ago, but here’s one from my last outing yesterday that I couldn’t resist, from Blair Avenue in Piedmont.

Signs and signatures like this are persuasive evidence that Piedmont really is part of Oakland. Those of you who remember biology courses may think of Piedmont as an organelle inside Oakland, like the nucleus or the mitochondria of a living cell. As a geologist, I think of Piedmont as an inclusion in the crystal of Oakland. If you’re a geographer, you may think of Piedmont as one of eight enclave cities in California. It’s also a city that managed to sequester its natural store of wealth, back in 1907, by avoiding annexation to Oakland. For every stubborn accumulation of wealth, there are Robin Hoods bent upon redistributing it.

This is the kind of mark that the socialist Jack London, who spent time in both Piedmont and Oakland, could have made. That’s part of the energy within and between these two dynamic, fascinating cities.

Corners: 21st Avenue and E. 28th Street

16 April 2018

This sidewalk was laid by C. A. (Carl) Lindstrom. The dates on his marks extend only from 1923 to 1925.

“Master Concrete” holders III

16 February 2018

This mark, from Howard Avenue in Piedmont, documents two things. First, it shows that distinguished sidewalk maker Ed Doty held “Master Concrete” number 13, in addition to numbers 16 (1937-38) and 17 (1938-45).

Second, it shows that Doty switched from this stamp to the curved configuration, which incorporates the Master Concrete bug inside, some time between April and September 1937, when he used Master Concrete number 16.

“Master Concrete” holders I

“Master Concrete” holders II

American Brotherhood of Cement Workers

3 November 2017

I know I’ve talked about the A.B.C.W. before — read that post for the living connection to today — but this week’s post is just to record a splendid example of the sidewalk stamp, in Berkeley at the corner of Shasta and Tamalpais Roads.

The sidewalks paved by the Oakland Paving Company’s union workers, everywhere I’ve seen them, are second to none. A hundred years old and they’re strong as ever. And the design shows such pride. A hundred years from now the concrete being poured today might match this old stuff in strength, but the new sidewalks will never match the old ones in character.

In Dimond Canyon

16 June 2017

The Works Progress Administration employed hundreds of thousands of people during the Great Depression. A lot of those works involved concrete, and many well-made sidewalks and gutters around Oakland bear the “WPA” stamp from 1939, 1940 and 1941.

In Dimond Canyon, WPA projects were funded to remove landslides, build fire trails and run a sewer line down the bed of Sausal Creek. Finally, the WPA paid crews to put in a bunch of concrete channels and culverts for flood and erosion control. That was in 1939.

A lot of that work has been undermined by erosion. Eventually the stream will have its way again, unless the authorities find a need there and fill it again.