Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

Sidewalk maker: J. C. Estey

May 19, 2017

The worn, unobtrusive stamp of J. C. Estey can be seen wherever the pavement is oldest. But this man left a rich record.

John Crowell Estey was born in 1842 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Some sources spelled the family name “Esty.” He served in the Union Army during the Civil War. A letter he wrote to his parents in 1865 is extant, in which he told them of the death of his brother Charles in a Confederate prison. He added, “It won’t do for me to live single much longer. In 1868 if I live and nothing happens before, then I think I will take a wife.”

The 1870 census listed him as a farmer, married to the former Harriet “Hattie” Evans and father of two-year-old Minnie, living in Manhattan Township, Kansas.

By 1876 he was registered to vote in San Francisco. In 1878 he was awarded a patent on a scheme to extract power from inside a water line.

As of 1879 Estey had moved to Oakland. The 1880 census listed him as a coal dealer with three children, including a son Charles. In 1882 the Daily Alta California reported that he had been elected Assistant Superintendent of the Central Mission Sunday School in Oakland. That same year the Oakland Tribune reported that he was moving his coal yard to 16th and San Pablo. In 1886 he was listed as a farmer in the rolls of the State Anti-Riparian Irrigation Organization of California, living at 535 17th Street, where the Oakland Ice Center is today. He was listed as an officer in the Civil War veterans association that same year.

Voter records show that between 1892 and 1896 he relocated to 458 E. 17th Street in East Oakland. In 1896 he was active in the People’s Party.

The 1900 census listed him as a cement contractor, and so did the 1901 Directory of American Cement Industries. He advertised in the Tribune in 1901 as “Contractor for all kinds of Cement Work, Concrete and Stone Walls.” This is significant because it pins him down as one of Oakland’s earliest sidewalk makers. It is conceivable that some of the pavement bearing his mark dates from before 1900. However, I have found only a few dated examples, all from 1912. Baker Street, in the Golden Gate neighborhood, has a bunch of them.

Estey died in 1919. I have no information on his gravesite, but he qualified for a Civil War veteran’s grave.

Sidewalk maker: Robert Appleby

May 12, 2017

Robert O. Appleby was born in Newbottle, County Durham, England, in 1883, where the 1901 census listed him as a “horse shoer above and below ground,” presumably in the coal mines. He escaped that miserable life to America in 1905, where he married Winifred E., another English immigrant who came to America in 1907. The 1910 census listed the couple and their first child as living in Linda township in Yuba County, where he and all his neighbors were gold dredgers.

Appleby showed up in the Oakland business directory in 1917. The 1920 census listed him as a blacksmith at the shipyards, living at 2500 63rd Avenue with Winifred and their two daughters. Looks like the house is still there.

In 1925 he changed his directory listing from blacksmith to cement contractor, a status he kept at least until the 1940 census.

I’ve recorded a sprinkling of his marks all around Oakland, dating from 1931 to 1937.

He was still at the 63rd Avenue address in 1944. He died in 1968 at a ripe old age, while Winifred died in 1962. She’s buried at Mountain View Cemetery, but I have no information about him.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.