Archive for the ‘streetscape’ Category

Standout Streets: Elston Avenue

July 21, 2017

The 3700 block of Elston Avenue that’s just behind the Altenheim is an exquisite set of homes, each custom-built in the mid-1930s in the same Spanish Revival style and with a streetscape to match.

First the houses.

The first time I came upon this street, an old-timer came out and regaled me with the story of the developer who assembled this set of houses, building them one or two at a time. Like Henry Ford’s Model T, you could have whatever you wanted as long as it was beige stucco with a red tile roof. I wish I could recall the developer’s name, but perhaps one of you can identify him in a comment.

Elston Place is in the middle of the block, offering views downtown.

The street corner here has one of the details that adds to the block’s charm, a dated Fitzmaurice mark from 1933 when the base sidewalk was laid down.

Here’s another view farther up the block that includes the driveways.

Look close (all these images are clickable, as usual) and you’ll see a familiar triangle there.

Yes, good old Frank Salamid did every driveway on this block. Thus every artisan who made this block added to the rare degree of unity and consistency that makes well-preserved Elston one of my very favorite Oakland streets.

C. G. Janson

July 7, 2017

You’ve seen the sidewalk elevators in old Oakland sidewalks, with their ancient battered steel doors. Most of them came from San Francisco companies, but Carl G. Janson manufactured them in Oakland, at 6420 San Pablo Avenue.

I haven’t done a big search for Janson’s biography, but he was granted several patents, one for a sidewalk-elevator door frame in 1912 and another for a bunk in 1921. The 1905 patent referred to on this door doesn’t turn up.

This Janson door on 13th Street indicates that his firm was in Berkeley for a time.

And maybe it was because I’d just left the Oakland Museum after seeing the Roy De Forest show, but the door struck me as unexpectedly attractive.

EBMUD Special District No. 1

June 23, 2017

These handsome access covers are few and far between. They’re part of East Bay Mud’s sewage service.

Special District No. 1 was established in 1944 by elections in six East Bay cities and started operating in 1951. It serves a smaller area inside the region where EBMUD provides water service, as shown on this map from the utility’s site.

Wastewater from nine East Bay cities flows from city sewers to the District’s interceptors — large pipes that carry the water to the treatment plant near the Bay Bridge. From there the treated water goes into the Bay.


May 26, 2017

This utility hole cover sits on Keswick Court, on the south side of Shepherd Canyon. My searches for any information about SPSD have drawn a total blank. It might stand for the San Pablo Sanitary District, which existed from 1921 to 1978 when it became the West County Wastewater District. Maybe whoever installed the sewer line down Keswick bought SPSD’s outdated hardware, or the Empire Foundry had a stack lying around. I mean, who would care?

I have few other clues. Keswick was shown as unpaved on the 1947 topo map and paved on the 1959 edition, so the lid may date from the fifties. And yet Beaconsfield Road, just up the hill, contains a water main cap from People’s Water Company, which ceased to exist in 1914. I can only assume that EBMUD used old PWC inventory when it pushed water service into the area.

For more clues, I must rely on the kindness of my readers.

Access cover anatomy

May 5, 2017

This large and elaborate East Bay MUD access cover, on San Leandro Avenue in deep East Oakland, displays a lovely radial design. It also includes good examples of some typical features of access covers.

At the top and bottom edges, at 12 and 6 o’clock, are lifting notches, where a worker attaches the hooks to raise the lid safely. Halfway out from the center is a ring of aeration holes, arranged on the major compass points. They happen to filled with dirt, except for the one marking Northeast. Their function is to equalize the pressure between the hole and the atmosphere, guarding against the effects of unusual events, like a tornado in the air or a sudden flood or explosion down below, that might push the lid out of its rim.

The smaller lid on the right side has its own lifting hole. Presumably it allows access so someone can monitor conditions in the shaft without going through the chore of pulling off the large lid. Because a smooth finish could present a slipping hazard, the secondary lid was textured by a welder. Perhaps there’s an arcane pattern in it representing a message, but it’s more likely to be a random set of metal bits, a scribble arranged by eye and intuition.

The A.C.F.C. & W.C.D.

April 28, 2017

The owner of this access hole has a name that rolls off the tongue: the Alameda County Flood Control & Water Conservation District. They’re the people who manage much of the East Bay’s runoff. One of our streams is buried here, along San Leandro Avenue — probably Stonehurst Creek, the little branch of San Leandro Creek that runs along the railroad tracks by 105th Avenue.

L. D. Frazee Heating

April 21, 2017

Leonard D. Frazee was born in Illinois in 1870. The 1920 census listed his family at 699 36th Street, with his wife Ellen and three children who were born in Kentucky, Missouri and California respectively. The second child was Leonard Jr.

The Oakland business directories list Frazee between 1907 and 1928. At first he called himself a steamfitter, first in Emeryville and, as of 1910, at an address that became 3230 Courtland Street. From the 1914 to 1928 directories he was listed as a heating contractor at 699 36th Street, where he raised his family.

In 1919 he was granted half of a patent for an innovative damper design.

Frazee died in 1930. I’m not sure if he is related to the owners of the Frazee Paints business, but probably not.