Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

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.

Sidewalk maker: J. H. Fitzmaurice

March 3, 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sidewalk maker: Charles A. Peterson

January 27, 2017

C. A. Peterson left his mark over much of Oakland, using a stamp that showed his address at 3908 Maybelle Avenue, above the Laurel district.

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The name is far too common for me to learn anything from the usual genealogy sources. All I know is what I’ve gleaned from the local business directories.

Charles A. Peterson first appeared in the 1906 directory as a cement worker at 1743 Blake Street, Berkeley. In 1907 he had the same address, along with Alfred, Arthur and George. In 1908 only he and Alfred were left. In 1909 he was listed at 96 Maybelle Avenue in Oakland, and in 1910 he was at 92 Maybelle. Presumably the house numbers changed when the area was annexed to Oakland, and from 1912 to 1925 his address remained 3908 Maybelle. This is the house at that address.

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It has two nice strikes of his stamp on the sidewalk out front.

As of 1925, the directory showed that he had a wife, Adelle.

The 1928 and 1930 directories listed him as a rigger, at 3922 Maybelle. And after that I know nothing.

Sidewalk maker: Angelo C. Sposeto

January 6, 2017

Angelo Charles Sposeto was born in Pennsylvania in 1912, the son of Italian immigrants Dominic (formerly Domenico Esposito) and Frances (formerly Francesca Valenti) Sposeto. The family moved to Des Moines, Iowa the same year, and little Angelo grew up in the bootlegging business, eventually running nightclubs there. He met and married Mary Jaquinto (formerly Iaquinta) in 1931. The 1940 census records him in Des Moines, Iowa, with four children, the youngest age 1. He was recorded as looking for work. The family records say that he was looking for a way out of the Mafia life he was born to.

They came to California in 1941 and lived in Albany and El Cerrito at first. There Angelo invented a concrete mix he named Marblecrete. It was used in his Rainbow Carwash at MacArthur and Broadway. His son Dominic, an attorney, has recorded a wealth of the family’s history in a book he is now giving away free. I have relied on it for these details.

His work on Oakland sidewalks is scarce and scattered. An Oakland Tribune item mentions him as a concrete contractor in 1946. The earliest sidewalk mark I have of his is from 1947, showing that he was a member of Local 594 of the OPCFIA at the time.

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The records of the Berkeley School Board show that in 1956, he was awarded a contract to install a retaining wall and drainage system on the Berkeley High athletic field.

Later in the 1950s, he acquired a proper concrete stamp.

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The only other date I have is 1963, drawn by hand inside the barrel-shaped mark.

The 1967 business directory listed Sposeto’s business at 9300 G Street, while Angelo and Mary lived at 2655 Wallace Street, a curious little road across 14th Avenue from Highland Hospital.

Angelo died in 1975, age 62, and is buried in Lafayette at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. He and Mary Sposeto had five children; with the death of son Frank Albert last week, only Dominic survives today. Frank worked for his father’s firm after serving in the military, and I’m sure he could have shared some stories about his dad and the streets of Oakland.

Sidewalk maker: Manuel Medis

December 30, 2016

Manuel D. Medis was born in Massachusetts to Manuel Medis, a Portuguese immigrant, and his wife Ella, a local of Portuguese descent, on 17 September 1895. He was the oldest of four children when the family moved to Oakland, where they were counted in the 1910 census. He served in the military during the first world war, after which he married an Ohio girl named Sylvia Mae Quickle.

Medis got into the concrete business right away. He was listed in the 1922 directory at 3806 Hopkins, in the Laurel district. As of 1924 he and Sylvia were living at 2427 Scenic Avenue, where they stayed the rest of their lives. The house is a typical working-class dwelling, though it’s been added on to since the 1960s.

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In the 1925 directory he was listed as part of a team, “Medis and Rose,” with an older cement worker named Manuel Rose. No marks from that pair survive, and they may not have used a stamp. Be that as it may, Medis the solo practitioner left his stamp on sidewalks all over Oakland. It never changed.

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I’ve documented examples dating from 1927 to 1940.

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I don’t know much much longer he practiced, but he was listed in the 1941 directory. He would have been in his mid-forties.

Manuel Medis died in 1954, and Sylvia stayed on at the Scenic Avenue house until her death in 1968. They seem to have been childless, but perhaps his three sisters stayed in town and supplied them with nieces and nephews. He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery next to Sylvia.

Sidewalk maker: Gene Tribuzio

December 2, 2016

Gaetano “Gene” Tribuzio was born 3 July 1889, in Bari, to Francesco Tribuzio and Isabella Siciliano. The Italian records give his birthplace as Mola di Bari, a seaside village east of the port of Bari, but the family and the U.S. immigration records say he was born in Acquaviva delle Fonti. He emigrated to America with his brother Nicola (see Nick Tribuzio), leaving two brothers behind and entering the U.S. on 6 March 1913.

Nick and Gaetano operated briefly as the Tribuzio Brothers, which I mentioned in my post about Nick. The 1926 directory lists him as “Guy,” living with his wife Mary (born Maria Cerimele) at 425 Market Street. Soon Guy, or Gene as he later called himself, was working on his own. His earliest surviving sidewalk stamp in Oakland is from 1928.

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In the early years he would often stamp the month underneath the mark.

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After 1936, he filed the address off his stamp and continued to use it into the 1950s. Presumably that’s when he moved to 3706 Porter Street. (If I ever get over that way and the house is still there, I’ll take a photo and stick it here.)

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This hand-drawn mark from 1940 shows a hint of his style. Notice that he misspelled his name Tribuzzio.

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The Tribuzios had six children, five sons and a daughter. The 1940 census records list the couple as “Gene” and “Mary” along with their children, living at 3706 Porter Street.

Some of the sons joined Gene as “G. Tribuzio & Sons.” I’ve recorded marks with that name, all of them hand-drawn, from 1948 to 1955. Solo “G. Tribuzio” stamped marks survive in Oakland up to 1954.

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He was the most prolific Tribuzio, and he left his work all over this city.

Gaetano Tribuzio died 9 October 1974. Various of his descendants have left comments on this site over the years, and I greatly appreciate their personal information.