L. D. Frazee Heating

April 21, 2017

Leonard D. Frazee was born in Illinois in 1870. The 1920 census listed his family at 699 36th Street, with his wife Ellen and three children who were born in Kentucky, Missouri and California respectively. The second child was Leonard Jr.

The Oakland business directories list Frazee between 1907 and 1928. At first he called himself a steamfitter, first in Emeryville and, as of 1910, at an address that became 3230 Courtland Street. From the 1914 to 1928 directories he was listed as a heating contractor at 699 36th Street, where he raised his family.

In 1919 he was granted half of a patent for an innovative damper design.

Frazee died in 1930. I’m not sure if he is related to the owners of the Frazee Paints business, but probably not.

Oakland sawblade

April 14, 2017

659 15th Street is the nondescript butt-end of the building whose main space, facing Martin Luther King Jr. Way, houses the East Bay Fencers Gym.

The web offers me almost no information on what’s here. That’s OK. I think I know something about the person. The evidence in the concrete suggests a small-time artisan or artist, someone skilled and obsessive enough to create these objects, proud enough to mark the place, yet self-effacing too.

As a fruit is to the tree that bears it, so are artists to the community that nourishes them. As a fellow Oaklander, I accept and return the salute with this post.

In other news, here’s yet another variant of the 2011 Rosas Brothers stamp.

2011 – Rosas Brothers

394 Orange Street

I don’t know how this happens.

Sidewalk maker: T. J. Garvey

April 7, 2017

Thomas Joseph Garvey was born in Fresno in 1898; his father John J. Garvey was a Kansan of Irish descent and his mother Elizabeth was a Northern Irish native. By 1910 his family was living in Oakland, and he grew up at various addresses along Adeline Street. His 1918 draft registration form described him as a tall man of medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair.

He followed his father briefly into shipfitting, but in 1927 he was in business as a concrete contractor, living with his wife Fern (born in 1900) at 716 8th Street. As of 1930 the couple had moved up to 5686 Ocean View Drive, and from 1937 on they lived at 4520 Harbord Drive.

T. J. Garvey’s marks fall rather neatly into three periods. This was his first stamp.

The mark below, at 941 Arlington Street, is one I documented just a few days ago, the first example from 1933.

By the next year, his stamp had begun to degrade, and he was touching it up by hand.

Most of his marks from then through the war years were partly or fully hand-drawn. Then in 1947 he got a new stamp that used a serifed font, like Courier.

He used this one consistently through the 1950s. The latest mark I have is this one from 1958, on Tunnel Road.

Garvey died in 1960, and his wife lived on in the Harbord Drive home at least through the 1960s. She died in 1987, and both are buried in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward.

Marks from T. J. Garvey’s 32-year career are scattered widely throughout Oakland, though only a small fraction of them bear dates. You can at least assign them a decade just by looking at them. I’m only missing examples from 1929, 1932, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1951 and 1957. Perhaps they survive in neighboring cities.

San Francisco Gas & Electric Company

March 31, 2017

If I recall correctly, this access lid is on Jefferson or Martin Luther King down around 10th Street. It belonged to the San Francisco Gas & Electric Company, which was in existence from 1896 to 1906. SFG&E merged with the California Gas and Electric Corporation to form Pacific Gas & Electric, still in business today as PG&E.

The company opened a gas manufacturing plant in Oakland in 1905, down where Howard Terminal is today.

The six cleverly placed lifting holes are a nice touch.

Sidewalk Maker: Jacobs and Pattiani

March 24, 2017

This stamp was made by a general contractor, not a sidewalk maker. It’s on Martin Luther King at 15th Street, in front of the building newly occupied by Flax Art & Design. However, Jacobs and Pattiani was the contractor of record for the Claridge Hotel building across the street, so maybe that’s the connection.

Harold B. Jacobs (1894-19??) was a contractor from Alameda who lived on Holman Road in Trestle Glen. But Pattiani had the eye-catching name.

Alfred Washington Pattiani (1855-1935) was best known as a fashionable architect-builder around the turn of the last century. As Christian Olson of edificionado puts it, “Alfred Pattiani was the builder of choice for the moneyed class in the East Bay for many years. His grand Victorian homes dot the oldest parts of Berkeley, Oakland, and most notably Alameda where his office was located.” The Berkeley Daily Planet published a story in 2006 about the maniacal restoration of a Pattiani house.

Pattiani was born in Ohio of cultured Bavarian parents (his grandfather changed the family name from Fahrnbacher upon emigrating to the U.S.) — his father C. Alfred was a daguerrotypist and his mother Eliza a noted composer — and spent most of his life in the Bay area. He began his practice by designing his own home in 1879 and was active until at least 1917.

The Jacobs and Pattiani firm is listed only in the 1928 directory, at 337 17th Street. Pattiani lived on Lagunitas Avenue in Adams Point at the time. There are reports of it doing business from 1928 to 1932, but the firm’s name disappeared from the directories.

I have found two Jacobs and Pattiani marks in Oakland, both in front of brick buildings. The other one is at 450 24th Street, perhaps Oakland’s prettiest Auto Row brick structure. See it here.

Pattiani is buried in the Chapel of the Chimes Mausoleum along with his wife Ida. And there’s a Pattiani Way in Alameda, on Bay Farm Island.

Sidewalk maker: George Prentice

March 17, 2017

There were two George D. Prentices. The first one, George Dennison Prentice, was born in Kentucky in 1861. He had the same name as his grandfather, the noted (or infamous) editor of the Louisville Journal. In the 1880 census he was in Mendocino County. He was registered to vote in Salinas in 1890 and in New Idria in 1892. He married Mary Jacka or Jacquén, a native of Mexico, in 1885. In the 1900 census he was listed as a traveling salesman living in French Gulch Township, Shasta County, with Mary and three children. Two years later he was registered to vote in Tiburon. But he lived in Berkeley, at 2313 Webster Street, when he stamped this sidewalk in 1903 with “G. D. Prentice Co.” It’s the only example I’ve found in Oakland.

In 1904 he was listed as a partner, with E. C. Wiggin, in Prentice & Wiggin. Perhaps they left some marks in Berkeley, but there are none in Oakland today. In 1905 he was listed alone again, and his son Clarence was listed at the same address as a student. From 1906 to 1909 they were Prentice & Son, cement contractors, but after that George was listed as a salesman. When Clarence got engaged in 1906, the Oakland Tribune called his father “the well-known Berkeley contractor.”

In the 1920 census he was living in Piedmont, occupation manager of a gold mine. Among his populous household was a grandson, George P.

He surfaced again as a concrete contractor in the 1920s, living at 2207 13th Avenue. This is the house at that address, courtesy of Google Street View.

And this 1925 mark sits right across the street.

The same address appears on the Prentice & Kaiser stamp, but I know nothing about that firm.

I have marks of his from 1924 to 1932. But as of 1930, he had wiped the address off his mark, leaving only “Oakland” at the bottom.

In this mark from 1931, the name is given as George D. Prentice Jr.

There are four reasons a man might do this. The first one is out, because George’s only son was named Clarence. The second reason would be that George Junior was George’s grandson. That seems far-fetched, although George P. would have been 21 at the time. Perhaps the 1920 census got his initial wrong, and he really was another George D. The third reason would be that George’s father, also named George D. Prentice, showed up in the household. Oddly, there were two Civil War veterans named George D. Prentice. One served in the Confederate Army (possibly the publisher’s son), and the other served in the Union Colored Troops. That seems far-fetched too.

The fourth reason is coincidence. A George D. Prentice Jr., age 21, is listed in the 1930 census, a roomer at the home of Isabelle Arnest at 1231 E. 19th Street. He gave his occupation as foreman at an oil company. The 1930 directory lists him at 1843 18th Avenue. Did this guy take over his namesake’s business? Was he actually the “George P.” of the 1920 census? That’s my best guess. He left us this single stamp from 1937.

I haven’t been able to learn when old George died, but he was gone in the 1933 directory.

Relics of the Oakland water war

March 9, 2017

54th Street preserves some very old streetscape to go with its old houses. Both of these water-main lids are on the same block.

The Contra Costa Water Company was Anthony Chabot’s baby, founded in 1866. That was the company that built the two dams at Lake Temescal and Lake Chabot Reservoir. It got involved in Oakland’s nasty “water war” during the 1890s. In short, Chabot’s company turned down William Dingee’s request to extend water service to his properties in Montclair and Piedmont, and in 1893 Dingee formed the Oakland Water Company in response, tapping wells in upper Shepherd Canyon.

The competition grew heated, then ugly. Mutual disparagement escalated to mutual accusations of sabotage. Customers of both companies suffered poor service.

In 1898 the two firms were obliged to merge, with Dingee in charge under his former rival’s name. Less than a decade later, the People’s Water Company devoured the Contra Costa Water Company. I think this lid used hardware from both People’s and Oakland water companies, perhaps a fresh cap in an old ring or just mixed inventory in the People’s warehouse.

People’s Water Company collapsed within a decade, too, with the short-lived East Bay Water Company springing from its wreckage. Only after the East Bay Municipal Utility Company was formed did Oakland get good, reliable water service. Remember the water wars whenever someone tells you private enterprise can do everything better and cheaper.