About Oakland Underfoot

pleasehold

This blog began in 2008 as a collection of sidewalk markings in the city of Oakland. It also includes marks by makers who did not date their work.

I’m Andrew Alden, hopefully better known as the operator of the Oakland Geology blog. I live in Oakland and decided that I need a new hobby. This is it.

This is not a complete documentation of Oakland’s sidewalk stamps, which would be very boring. It’s a collection of unique date-and-stamp combinations, analogous to a coin collection of unique date-and-mint-mark combinations. What I have here is less than 10 percent of the marks out there.

Between 2008 and late 2015, I surveyed every street in the city, both sides. Now I’m branching out to other interesting features underfoot. I’ll also be analyzing and annotating the approximately 2800 sidewalk-stamp photos shown here.

The image is a 1941 M. Cvetich mark on a sidewalk fragment on the Albany Bulb, known nowadays as Eastshore State Park.

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29 Responses to “About Oakland Underfoot”

  1. Patrick Salamid Says:

    Andrew
    I was interested in knowing more about sidewalk stamps with the name Salamid. My great uncle was Frank, my grandfather, Angelo and father, Anthony, also did cement work throughout Oakland in the first and second haf of the last century.
    Thx
    Patrick

  2. Andrew Says:

    Patrick, I’m delighted that you visited. Let’s take up this discussion in the A Salamid post.

  3. Andrew Says:

    The banner image is from an old PG&E cover plate on Broadway near 51st Street (but you’ll see them everywhere). PG&E used to outsource their cover plates to Art Concrete Works, on Adeline Street in Oakland. Later PG&E cover plates, and those of other utilities, bear the names of other manufacturers.

  4. Andrew Says:

    It has been one year since I started this collection, which now includes more than 400 items. I’m still missing seven years from the 1900s, one year from the 1950s, three years from the 1960s, five years from the 1970s, eight years from the 1980s, six years from the 1990s and one year from the 2000s.

    Totals so far (this also includes marks set to drip through August 15):

    1900s: 8 items
    1910s: 72 items
    1920s: 91 items
    1930s: 129 items
    1940s: 76 items
    1950s: 28 items
    1960s: 9 items
    1970s: 5 items
    1980s: 2 items
    1990s: 7 items
    2000s: 13 items

    There are also approximately 60 makers who did not date their work, or for whom I have not yet found dated marks.

  5. Hannah Says:

    This is wonderful! I have been collecting sidewalk stamps in Albany and west Berkeley for a while now and a Google search for Schnoor Bros (who paved most of Albany in the 1920s) brought me here. You can see a small part of my collection here: http://printerpiemaker.blogspot.com/2009/12/sidewalk-secrets.html I intend to post more once I have fully chronicled the neighborhood. I currently have stamps from 1909-present.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Thanks for visiting! You have some real keepers in your neighborhood, like that Hall Co. maltese-cross stamp and that fine 1909 double F. E. Nelson mark. When you put up more of your photos, collect them under their own label and I’ll add that to the blogroll.

  7. Hannah Says:

    Will do! I currently have about 150 photos and you’ve inspired me to be more precise about keeping track of their locations.

  8. Hannah Says:

    Hi again- I’ve started this blog to store all my sidewalk stamps: http://sidewalksecrets.blogspot.com. Enjoy!

  9. Andrew Says:

    Last night I prepared a key to all the sidewalk stamps by their graphic type: all text, marks with outlines around them, and so on. My plan is to make a way for people (probably me more than anyone else) to identify weak, obscured or partial marks. In the coming days I’ll be adding links and images to the page.

  10. mike Says:

    This is great. I finally found someone who Loves these marks in the streets and sidewalks. Is it only California that has them? I never noticed any in Massachusetts.

  11. Andrew Says:

    I haven’t seen any yet in New York City, either. But look at the sites in my blogroll for marks in Toronto and Chicago, etc.

  12. mike Says:

    When I was a kid, my mother used to take us to old cemeteries, and with a piece of paper and a charcoal pencil, we’d take grave rubbings. I wonder if these are rubbable.

  13. Andrew Says:

    I’m sure they are, but I try not to stand out while I survey people’s sidewalks. Another thing about sidewalk marks is that they fill with dirt, unlike gravestone texts, so sometimes they need preparation. I bring along an umpire’s brush for sweeping sidewalks, and that’s all the equipment I use.

  14. Andrew Says:

    It’s a little over two years since I started this blog. It has 862 entries as of today. I’m still missing 4 dates from the 1900s, one date from the 1960s, four dates from the 1970s, six dates from the 1980s, three dates from the 1990s and one date from the 2000s. Nor have I found a 2010 mark yet.

    Totals so far:

    1900s: 28 items
    1910s: 91 items
    1920s: 155 items
    1930s: 245 items
    1940s: 119 items
    1950s: 60 items
    1960s: 20 items
    1970s: 7 items
    1980s: 4 items
    1990s: 10 items
    2000s: 17 items

    There are also approximately 70 makers who did not date their work, or for whom I have not yet found dated marks. I’ve found some 250 different sidewalk contractors so far who marked their work. Almost all are from Oakland, about a dozen are from Berkeley, and a handful are from other neighboring cities.

  15. Reyes Briones Says:

    I am a 2nd generation native of Oakland, recently retired and just started blog of Oakland AND other stuff. I include sidewalk markings too!

  16. Andrew Says:

    Hannah over at the Sidewalk Secrets blog has posted photos of the original brass stamp used by Mill Valley contractor Louis Lambretti. This is a rare opportunity to see one of the actual instruments used to make our beloved marks:

    http://sidewalksecrets.blogspot.com/2011/01/louis-lambretti.html

  17. Rich Pease Says:

    I found you concrete stamp collection fascinating. My son’s maternal grandfather was LJ Lorenzetti for whom I worked when I got out of service in 1970. My father-in-law learned his trade from Nat Lena who was his mother’s cousin. Nat Lena came to this country from Italy in the early 1900s. He started in the concrete business eventually becoming a general contractor. one of his buildings is Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Park Blvd in Oakland. Lino J Lorenzetti left Nat Lena’s employ in the early 1950s and worked out of Alameda. Lino was also born in Italy but came to the US with his parents when he was an infant. His father Giorgio worked for Nat until Lino became a contractor at which time he went to work for his son Lino. I believe that Angelo Sposetto also worked for Nat Lena at one time. another name that you will see in Oakland and in the East Bay is Jardine. George Jardine also learned his trade while working for Nat Lena. He too later became a concrete contractor and had his business in Alameda. Another Alameda contractor was Aldo (AJ) Ferraro. His real love was making cement sculptures. All these men knew each other, were good friends, and when needed would help each other with jobs. My father-in-law Lino called them “his friendly competitors.” i would be remiss if I did not mention the Apodaca Brothers who were also from Alameda. The one brother who had his contractors license had worked for the City of Alameda, and I believe that is where he learned the trade. Just one final thought – all sidewalks and flat concrete work on public property had to be stamped with the contractor’s name and the date the concrete was laid. That was generally the very last thing that was done. I worked with all the above individuals except the Apodaca brothers. I worked full-time with my father-in-law LJ Lorenzetti from 1970 – 1971. In 1971 I went to work for the Alameda Police Dept and became self-employed but still worked in the concrete business when I had the chance.

  18. Mike Fitz Says:

    Rich Pease, I love it! The recitation of the old masons names, the roll of honor. Here in Los Angeles, I see these names: THEO NOWAK ESER WIKHOLM ROBERT E. MILLSAP The long-gone guys who built the homes, shops, and roadways we use today. My brother, John Fitzgerald, is still in the business around Boston. After WWII, my father worked for Livio Ficcardi. When I was working for my brother, another mason in town was Pat Ferrera. He was 89 years old and still laying brick! And his hod-carrier was 77!

  19. Andrew Says:

    Rich, thanks so much for filling in so much information! It really enriches my experience of these marks. You may already know that I have marks from everyone you mentioned—if not, just use the Search box to find their names.

    Can you tell me more about the stamping requirement? In particular I’m interested in knowing when the requirement was dropped, and why.

    It occurs to me that if you ever placed the Lorenzetti mark on the jobs you worked on, those may still be out there waiting for me to find.

  20. Richard Pease Says:

    My father (Rich Pease), shared a link to your sight with me the other night and I finally got to follow it today. Your photos bring back many memories from my youth as I would hang out with my dad and my grandpa (L.J. Lorenzetti) at various jobs in Alameda and Oakland. I fondly remember riding around in my grandfather’s 1970 blue Chevy pickup seeing him work and learning a bit about his profession. I also remember many times walking around Alameda, seeing my grandfather’s name stamped in the concrete and knowing that you couldn’t find a street without sidewalks bearing his (and Nat’s) names. Thanks for documenting these and I must confess that I am quite proud of the fact that some of Lino’s work still exists and is visible today. He was a great man and the epitome of a loving grandfather.

  21. Andrew Says:

    I started this blog three years ago, and it has 1193 posts as of July 6. I’m still missing two dates from the 1900s, two dates from the 1970s, two dates from the 1980s and one date from the 2000s (and have nothing from 2011 yet). I record every mark I find from before 1910; all other posts have a unique combination of maker and year, with a few exceptions.

    Totals so far:

    1900s: 50 items
    1910s: 139 items
    1920s: 268 items
    1930s: 414 items
    1940s: 211 items
    1950s: 104 items
    1960s: 30 items
    1970s: 14 items
    1980s: 12 items
    1990s: 22 items
    2000s: 21 items

    It includes some 250 different makers, about 70 of whom did not date their work, or I haven’t found a date yet.

    In terms of territory, I’ve covered almost all of Oakland north of a line connecting Jack London Square, Laney College, Lake Merritt, Lakeshore, Piedmont and the Warren Freeway except deep West Oakland and part of Golden Gate. I’ve covered a half-dozen little islands elsewhere in the city. Just eyeballing the map, I should be at this another four or five years. Don’t ask me how many miles I’ve walked. The city says it has 1120 miles of linear sidewalk.

  22. Linda Hamilton Says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I thought I’d add a bit of history about Nat Lena. He appears in my book on the 100 year history of the Rotary Club of Oakland, the third oldest in the world (released Feb 2012). I hope you enjoy it!

    Born on a farm in Lucca, Italy in 1885, Nat emigrated to the U.S. in 1902 and worked in New York for a time, before trying caol mining in West Virginia. After a few years, he returned to New York on foot, a journey that took him thirty-six days. Back in the Big Apple, he began working in the concrete industry. He moved on to railroad tunnel construction in Ohio and construction of the World’s Fair grounds in St. Louis, Missouri. He arrived in San Francisco, California in 1907 with $7.50 in his pocket. In Alameda, he worked for Rotarian A. LaPlant as a concrete foreman until he entered business for himself in 1914, and ran his contracting business until retirement. His only formal education was three months of night school when he first arrived in New York. But Nat used to say that his business education began at age ten when he took a contract for farm plowing.

    Nat was a member of Oakland Rotary for 47 years (concurrently a member of the Alameda and North Oakland Rotary Clubs too).
    In 1978, following his death, Nat left $85,000 to the Club’s scholarship fund started with funds left by Sugar and Rice Manufacturer Al Saroni upon his death in 1961.

    By 2009, the Saroni-Lena Scholarship Fund provided one million dollars to over 600 Oakland teens to go to college.

    Linda Hamilton

  23. Andrew Says:

    Linda, thanks so much! You may know that Alex. LaPlant has marks all over Alameda’s sidewalks, and I’ve found one example from Oakland.

    Can you confirm for me that Lena & Helling is one of Nat Lena’s early marks?

    Another matter I would love more info about is the transition from “N. Lena” to “Nat Lena” in 1934.

    Is the Saroni-Lena fund still in operation?

  24. Andrew Says:

    Looks like I missed the traditional anniversary in August, but a year-end post is better anyway.

    As of today (plus six posts set to drip), there are 1743 posts published on this blog. I’m still missing the following dates: 1900, 1903, 1980 and 1982.

    Totals so far:

    1900s: 45 items
    1910s: 165 items
    1920s: 318 items
    1930s: 496 items
    1940s: 269 items
    1950s: 128 items
    1960s: 42 items
    1970s: 26 items
    1980s: 20 items
    1990s: 27 items
    2000s: 29 items
    2010s: 10 items

    Some of these are duplicates and variations; for instance, I have four different Rosas Brothers marks for 2011, and every now and then I find a better version of a mark.

    I have 178 items under “undated marks,” but for many of those, probably about 40, I have since found dated examples.

    The territory I’ve covered is almost everything north of a line connecting Broadway Terrace, route 13, Park Boulevard, Beaumont Street, and 19th Avenue. Just a little bit of West Oakland awaits my visit, but every time I think about going someone gets shot there. I’ve also covered Fruitvale west of Foothill Boulevard down to High Street and west to the bay.

  25. Andrew Says:

    As of today, there are 2,102 posts published on this blog. I’m still missing the following dates: 1900, 1903, 1980 and 1982—no change from a year ago.

    Totals so far:

    1900s: 45 items (nothing was older than 1911 this year)
    1910s: 206 items
    1920s: 384 items
    1930s: 577 items
    1940s: 322 items
    1950s: 151 items
    1960s: 53 items
    1970s: 35 items
    1980s: 29 items
    1990s: 34 items
    2000s: 36 items
    2010s: 14 items

    That count includes some duplicates (when I find a better version of a date or when a maker used more than one mark in one year) and variants (mostly hand-drawn marks versus stamped marks).

    There are about 138 makers of sidewalk stamps for whom I have not seen any dates (“undated marks”), and about 61 marks for which I have found dated examples subsequent to my posting them (now called “undated examples”).

    The territory I’ve completely covered includes everything north of a line connecting 98th Avenue, 880, Hegenberger, San Leandro Street, Seminary, International, 48th Avenue, Foothill, 35th Avenue, 580, Coolidge, 13 and Snake. I think I have three years to go.

    I’ve given some thought to the question of whether there are streets that could be considered “heritage sidewalk streets.” I think upper Broadway (from Broadway Terrace to Lawton) comes closest, and the area between Claremont, College and 49th Street is also worthy. However, there are still pockets of old streets in East Oakland that I haven’t seen yet.

  26. Andrew Says:

    As of today, there are 2,467 posts published on this blog. I’m still missing marks from 1900 and 1903. I don’t expect to find them in the remainder of Oakland that I haven’t surveyed yet. Perhaps there are survivors that I missed in North and West Oakland, so I won’t give up. But I think those years are gone.

    Totals so far:

    1900s: 48 items
    1910s: 230 items
    1920s: 455 items
    1930s: 801 items
    1940s: 378 items
    1950s: 177 items
    1960s: 70 items
    1970s: 45 items
    1980s: 52 items
    1990s: 47 items
    2000s: 43 items
    2010s: 23 items

    That count includes some duplicates (when I find a better version of a date or when a maker used more than one mark in one year) and variants (mostly hand-drawn marks versus stamped marks). And amateurs, of course.

    There are about 140 makers of sidewalk stamps for whom I have not seen any dates (“undated marks”), and about 75 marks for which I have found dated examples subsequent to my posting them (now called “undated examples”).

    The territory I’ve completely covered includes everything north of a line connecting 98th Avenue, 880, Hegenberger, MacArthur, Seminary, 13, Mountain Boulevard and Shepherd Canyon Road, plus several islands of East Oakland to the south. I think I have less than two years to go.

    I believe I’ve exhausted all pre-1910 marks in the city. It was a surprise to find a 1909 mark by Fremont High School this year. There may be some pockets left in historic parts of Elmhurst.

  27. Scott Says:

    Outside our home on Briggs Ave. in Alameda, there is a LaPlant 1923 stamp on the concrete curb :)

  28. Rhian Says:

    Thank you for enlightening me on the meaning of the 1952 R G Wolfe stamp outside of my home on El Monte. You already have a picture of it :)

  29. roncozapatero Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Greetings from a Spaniard leaving in Brussels, Belgium. I too decided that I should have a hobby. So I am photographing things that display a year (in Brussels). You will notice that most of the pictures are of architects signatures displaying the year when the house was built.

    Great blog yours!.

    You will find mine here:

    brusselsyears.wordpress.com

    Juan RONCO ZAPATERO

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