Sidewalk maker: Karl A. Johanson

8 August 2020

Karl Arvid Johanson was born in PiteĆ„, Norrbotten County, Sweden in 1884, where he apprenticed as a carpenter. His biography in F. C. Merritt’s History of Alameda County (1928) rather pointedly notes that “on the completion of his apprenticeship [he] was regarded as an expert workman, receiving a diploma as a journeyman carpenter.” He emigrated at age 19, arriving at Ellis Island from Liverpool on the S.S. Ivernia, and knocked around the Upper Midwest, where for the next three years he went from job to low-wage job in the lumber industry.

He finally put his talents to work in Seattle, where he got into the building business and stayed for 15 years. There he married Jenny Lundholm, a fellow Norrbottener, and there the couple had five children.

Finally, having made some money, he relocated to Oakland in 1920 and jumped into the postwar building boom and was “more than ordinarily successful, having built over three hundred houses in this district, one hundred and seven having been built by him in one year.”

His draft record notes, “third finger right hand off below second joint,” a common injury among carpenters and lumber workers. (Jerry Garcia suffered the same, from a childhood mishap.)

I have found only two of his sidewalk marks in Oakland, both from 1924. One is on 55th Avenue and the other is on 51st Avenue.

He died in 1962, survived by all his children, and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

Brass in the sidewalk

29 July 2020

1100 Broadway

The 1100 Broadway building, a splashy newcomer to downtown, has added a subtle touch of metal to the sidewalk out front in these thin strips of brass inserted between the pavement panels. Each one is a different length.

1901 – Peterson & Adler

25 June 2020

1308 Alcatraz Avenue, Berkeley

Marks this old are of sufficient rarity that I document them all.

Vault lights, Old Oakland

19 June 2020

483 Ninth Street

When the 1870s-vintage buildings of Old Oakland were rescued and renovated, some updated versions of this 19th-century technology were installed to bring natural light into the subfloors on the west side of Ninth Street. These will probably not turn purple like the many antique examples around downtown/uptown like these and these.

1924 – Riechel & Bredhoff

8 June 2020

519 Van Buren Avenue

Riechel & Bredhoff had two different stamps, one with a high, tight arch inside the outline and the other with a lower, gentler arch (like this one also from 1924).

1974 – C. Valenzuela

2 June 2020

501 E. 12th Street

I’ve walked over this mark many times, but it’s in front of a grocery and usually covered with boxes of vegetables.

1916 – Jepsen Bros.

31 May 2020

2357 Le Conte Avenue, Berkeley

This differs from my other example in that the date is “1916” rather than just “16”.

This whole property is lovely.