A few more marks

September 23, 2016

Over the last month or so I’ve run across a few marks I missed or dismissed during the big survey.

1920 – F & R Farrer


3070 Champion Street

The date is barely a whisper; at least it’s some time in the 1920s. The 1922 directory lists three Farrers — Robert, Fred and Arthur — as concrete workers, all at 7305 E. 14th Street, so this must be Fred and Robert’s outfit. They’re clearly related in some fashion to Farrer & Sons, attested with a mark from 1926. The evidence is scant.

1935 – M. Bua


4051 Suter Street

Again, the date may be a hallucination, but that’s what I decided when looking at in person. I wouldn’t bother with such a poor mark except that it’s only the second example by Michael Bua, who’s listed in the 1930 directory as a general contractor at 237 Bacon Building.

1939 – W. M. Sharp


1452 Lakeshore Avenue

This is a clearer example of the year than the one I had before, which I decided was really from 1938.

Early concrete, or artificial stone

September 16, 2016

The sidewalks of Oakland were not paved with concrete until the late 1800s. Before that, pedestrians were shielded from the dust and mud of the roadside with gravel paths or timber boardwalks, at best. It was a point of pride in Oakland, regularly mentioned in promotional literature, when the sidewalks began to be widely paved.

In some old sidewalk stamps you’ll see the abbreviation “A.S.P.”


That stands for “Artificial Stone Paving,” the early term of art for sidewalk concrete. Starting in 1887, the San Francisco directories had a classified section for artificial stone manufacturers. It included George F. and Harry N. Gray, the notorious Gray Brothers, at 316 Montgomery Street. The Grays operated three quarries in the city at 26th and Douglass streets (Diamond Heights), 29th and Castro streets (Corona Heights) and Green and Sansome streets (Telegraph Hill).

The same directory listed an Oakland firm, Oakland Artificial Stone Company, at 454 Ninth Street. If it ever produced sidewalks in this town, they do not survive.

You may wonder about the “Schillinger Patent.” It was a method, patented by John J. Schillinger in 1870, of making pavements that involved inserting tarpaper or similar materials between blocks of concrete. No less a person than Frederick Law Olmsted made the name famous among Supreme Court scholars when he designed some concrete paving for the U.S. Capitol grounds, specifying a technique of this type, and took the chance that Schillinger’s patent wouldn’t stand up in court. Schillinger sued the government in the federal Court of Claims, and in 1894 the Supreme Court ruled in Schillinger v. United States that because the offense was merely a tort the claims court had no jurisdiction.

Another San Francisco artificial stone manufacturer, George Goodman, was listed in the 1893 directory as a Schillinger Patent specialist.


One of his lovely marks survives here, at 1028 E. 17th Street.

Land and Water Conservation Fund plaque 2: Central Reservoir Park

September 9, 2016


When I featured a Land and Water Conservation Fund plaque here a few weeks ago, I had a nagging feeling I’d seen one elsewhere, and there it was in my photos from March 2013. Oakland’s second LWCF site is tucked away next to the covered Central Reservoir, which I wrote about a few years ago in Oakland Geology. With a total of $70,000 from the fund to acquire 4 acres and help develop it, the Central Reservoir project took shape in the early 1970s. That may account for the maturity of the palm allee leading in from East 29th Street — or more likely a suburban estate once occupied this spot.


The park is small but well equipped for kids’ teams to play daytime softball and soccer. It also has picnic tables, bathrooms, a basketball court and views of the steel-roofed reservoir.


I’m glad they left a plaque behind. As the podcaster Roman Mars says, always read the plaque.

A Potter Built Home

September 2, 2016


I came upon this mark by a house somewhere around 90th Avenue and Thermal Street last year. Gene Anderson, one of the ever-helpful guys behind the Oakland Wiki, sleuthed out the identity of Potter: Arthur W. Potter, who operated the California Mission Realty Co. in Oakland on High Street during the 1920s. In the 1923 directory he was listed as a carpenter living on 41st Avenue; in 1925 he had started the company and lived in Berkeley. By the 1950s he was in business with two of his sons, Irving and Harvey, in Castro Valley as A.W. Potter and Sons.

A 1926 advertisement referred to “Potter Built Homes,” built with “oodles of built-ins, hardwood floors throughout, tile sink and bath, the latest in home construction.” Buyers could pick their own paint, wallpaper and electrical fixtures while their house was being built. This custom sidewalk stamp is another sign of the pride and care Potter must have taken at the time, during Oakland’s wave of expansion after World War I.

This is the only such mark I’ve found in Oakland, and I’m not sure it still exists. Nor do I know if others survive in San Leandro or points south. Red concrete was in vogue during the 1920s and 1930s.

Sidewalk Maker: Frank Salamid

August 26, 2016

Frank Paul Salamid was born Francisco Paolo Salamido in the town of Monopoli, way down in the heel of Italy, on 23 October 1881. Family lore has it that he was in town for the 1906 earthquake and was a barber at the time. However, his name first appeared in the 1900 directory, in the classifieds as a cement contractor. Then and thereafter, his address was on Manila Avenue.

I’ve documented the triangular Frank Salamid stamp from 1909 to 1949, one of Oakland’s longest records. From the start, his marks always varied. Here are three different examples from 1909.




Although the stamps read “Frank Salamid & Co.,” in 1911 and 1912 he started wiping out the “& Co.” part. My only clue about this is that in the 1910 directory he used the address 619 47th Street. I surmise that he started a proper company at that address and soon thought better of it, reverting to a one-man practice or a small team based out of his home.

Frank’s brother Angelo (1896-1997) came to America in 1914, working first in Pennsylvania and then in Oakland with Frank. Angelo Salamid first appeared in the 1917 directory at the same address as Frank, 5348 Manila Avenue. They and their respective families seem to have lived together, or at least within a few homes of each other, into the 1940s.

I haven’t found a mark from 1920, but in 1921 Frank appeared to have lost one of his most important numerals.


After that he acquired a new set of smaller numerals that allowed him to customize his marks even more capriciously — sometimes with months and days, sometimes inside the triangle instead of out. I’ve always thought this example from 23 December 1929 was poignant, coming as it did after the October stock-market crash and just two days before Christmas, when every extra dollar must have meant a lot.


The 1930s were good for Frank and Angelo. Their work is integral to the Idora Park development, the remarkable 3700 block of Elston Avenue, and elsewhere. In this period he got lax about wiping away the “& Co.”


The latest really good date I have is 1948.

Soon thereafter (the family source puts it at 1951), Frank sold the business to Angelo, retired to Glenn County and that was it. The family home for most of their time was at 5350 Manila, but the sidewalk there is blank.


Frank died in December 1969. Angelo and his son Anthony (Tony) carried on with the ubiquitous “A Salamid” stamp from 1951 into the 1970s, although none of their marks were dated.


Angelo lived to the age of 100. Tony, now retired, lives in Pleasant Hill, and other descendants live in the East Bay. My thanks to Patrick Salamid for the family stories.


August 19, 2016

The artist Mark Bulwinkle is widely known for his exuberant sculptures in uncoated steel. His signature series in the East Bay Bridge shopping plaza (or, as he calls it, Bulwinkle Plaza) surely gets as many viewers as any work by an Oakland artist. His smaller pieces grace many homes and gardens.

Today Bulwinkle’s studio, Bulwinkleland, is in high West Oakland, but for many years he installed sculptures all over his home on Manila Avenue. Eventually the house was shrouded in a fantastic frizz of welded rusty steel, each bit a piece of artwork, that resembled a giant crouton gone flagrantly moldy. I lived nearby and never tired of it. One day he decided to stop encrusting and start deconstructing. Soon enough the house was ordinary again, then he sold it and moved on.

Left behind were these two works embedded in his neighbors’ driveways: a moon and a star.



These remind me of the dreamlike spectacle the house presented at night, its great fringe of steel branches silhouetted against a moonlit sky, or backlit just as impressively by low Bay clouds.

Land and Water Conservation Fund plaque: North Oakland Regional Sports Center

August 12, 2016

Land and Water Conservation Fund

This plaque sits discreetly by the entrance to the North Oakland Regional Sports Center at 6900 Broadway, where countless drivers pass on their way to jam up Route 24 or Tunnel Road.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a federal program that redirects offshore oil and gas revenues to other ends. Its website notes that it “was [my emphasis] a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.” Both of our Senators and 37 of our 53 Representatives signed this year’s “Dear Colleague” letter supporting the program. One of them was a Republican.

This land was acquired and developed using LWCF funds between 1977 and 1985. Let’s assume the plaque was installed in 1985.