Archive for the ‘Streetscape’ Category

Piedmont pavement fancywork

August 18, 2017

On Cambrian Avenue, in eastern Piedmont, are some striking examples of the concrete worker’s artisanship. This whole end of town is paved with the same pattern of grooves and plaques, apparently emplaced by the J. H. Fitzmaurice company. Where Cambrian and Sandringham Road meet is this elaborate custom corner.

And nearby is a fine example of freeform finish work by August Casqueiro, marked with his “concrete master” stamp.

In all my years of documenting the maker’s marks, I neglected this aspect of sidewalk making. Time to collect a gallery, and maybe learn the names of these features.

Workers made the golden sidewalks, curbs and gutters by laying down a layer of colored slip on top of standard concrete, and then doing the fancy scoring and tiling. Red sidewalks are made the same way. The town of Piedmont diligently bevels off the sidewalks wherever the concrete becomes a tripping hazard, and that exposes the inside details.

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United Iron Works

August 4, 2017

United Iron Works manufactured all sorts of metal things, but I had no idea until I spotted this on a sidewalk a few weeks ago.

United Iron Works had that name from 1904 until 1955 and operated out of a complex of buildings, built starting in the 1880s, on both sides of 2nd Street between Clay and Jefferson Streets. Today a Cost Plus market sits where the foundry used to be, and a Bed Bath & Beyond store occupies one of the surviving buildings. The whole complex is a registered historic landmark.

The company was founded as Oakland Iron Works in 1871, according to the landmark application, and was reorganized as United Iron Works in 1904. The renovated complex is called Oakland Ironworks today.

I have a suspicion that the firm made this interesting street drain just across Clay.

I’ve been here a hundred times and never noticed it until just now.

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.

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.

Oakland sawblade

April 14, 2017

659 15th Street is the nondescript butt-end of the building whose main space, facing Martin Luther King Jr. Way, houses the East Bay Fencers Gym.

The web offers me almost no information on what’s here. That’s OK. I think I know something about the person. The evidence in the concrete suggests a small-time artisan or artist, someone skilled and obsessive enough to create these objects, proud enough to mark the place, yet self-effacing too.

As a fruit is to the tree that bears it, so are artists to the community that nourishes them. As a fellow Oaklander, I accept and return the salute with this post.

In other news, here’s yet another variant of the 2011 Rosas Brothers stamp.

2011 – Rosas Brothers

394 Orange Street

I don’t know how this happens.

Relics of the Oakland water war

March 9, 2017

54th Street preserves some very old streetscape to go with its old houses. Both of these water-main lids are on the same block.

The Contra Costa Water Company was Anthony Chabot’s baby, founded in 1866. That was the company that built the two dams at Lake Temescal and Lake Chabot Reservoir. It got involved in Oakland’s nasty “water war” during the 1890s. In short, Chabot’s company turned down William Dingee’s request to extend water service to his properties in Montclair and Piedmont, and in 1893 Dingee formed the Oakland Water Company in response, tapping wells in upper Shepherd Canyon.

The competition grew heated, then ugly. Mutual disparagement escalated to mutual accusations of sabotage. Customers of both companies suffered poor service.

In 1898 the two firms were obliged to merge, with Dingee in charge under his former rival’s name. Less than a decade later, the People’s Water Company devoured the Contra Costa Water Company. I think this lid used hardware from both People’s and Oakland water companies, perhaps a fresh cap in an old ring or just mixed inventory in the People’s warehouse.

People’s Water Company collapsed within a decade, too, with the short-lived East Bay Water Company springing from its wreckage. Only after the East Bay Municipal Utility Company was formed did Oakland get good, reliable water service. Remember the water wars whenever someone tells you private enterprise can do everything better and cheaper.