Sidewalk maker: J. H. Fitzmaurice

The J. H. Fitzmaurice company is nearing its hundredth year in Oakland. Everywhere you go, you’ll see its distinctive sidewalk stamps, even though the firm appears to have stopped using it some 50 years ago.

fitzmaurice-sign

The firm was incorporated in 1922 by John Herbert Fitzmaurice, who lived at 698 Walavista Avenue at the time. Fitzmaurice was born 31 January 1889 in California and died on 3 November 1957.

The 1915 through 1917 directories listed him as an employee of the Ransome Crummey Company, so he was well equipped by experience to run his own firm. About this time he married Emma Helen Heavey and started a family.

Previous to 1922 Fitzmaurice was a landscaping and paving company, and that remained the firm’s bread and butter for many years. This was its earliest stamp. I’ve found a half-dozen surviving examples, none of which were dated. These may even have predated incorporation.

fitzmaurice-mark1

The earliest stamp with a date is this one, the first barrel-shaped stamp to be used in Oakland. The design quickly became very popular, and today it’s still the default.

1926ff

I’ve found three other designs. Their dates overlap somewhat, which leads me to believe that each crew used its stamp until it broke or wore out or was lost. Here they are, in the order that makes the most sense to me.

fitzmaurice-mark3

fitzmaurice-mark4

Then there’s the classic stamp. I have found a single dated example, with a hand-drawn “1952” next to it. But there are thousands of these all over town, none of them on recent concrete.

fitzmaurice-mark5

John’s son, John Jr., worked for the company but eventually moved on to run the Alta Building Material Company, in Oakland (now a local branch of family-owned Westside Building Material). The Fitzmaurice firm remained in family hands until quite recently. In 2014 Tim Fitzmaurice turned over the reins to Mohammad Hakimi, and the firm sails on. I always meant to knock on their door and ask about the old days — see if any of the old stamps are still lying around.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: