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.


Sidewalk makers: Andersen & Montgomery

July 28, 2017

The Andersen & Montgomery partnership did a small number of surviving sidewalks in the Piedmont Avenue neighborhood and in Piedmont. This mark, from 1927, is at 945 Wildwood in Piedmont.

I’ve found two other marks dated 1929, but usually there are no dates.

The address on the stamp, 3796 Howe Street, was wiped out by the construction of the MacArthur-Broadway shopping center and then by the new Kaiser hospital building. John Andersen lived there with his wife Hulda (Lobel), according to the 1930 directory and the census. He was born in Denmark in 1859 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1883. Hulda was German, born in 1864, and immigrated in 1888. So they were pretty old by this time. She died in 1954, but I don’t know about him.

John Andersen was surely the “J. Andersen,” of 3774 Howe Street, responsible for this mark:

These date from 1912 to 1928 and are found mainly in North Oakland.

Robert B. Montgomery was a much younger man, born in Colorado in 1904 or 1905. He married the former Alice Sueell in 1929 and raised a family at 2626 Ivy Drive, where her folks lived. He dealt with bungalows, mainly. He is also responsible for this 1931 stamp on E. 24th Street.

It’s the only dated example I’ve found. Montgomery got in the paper in 1951 when he bought the Olympic Hotel building, at 2nd Avenue and E. 12th Street, and moved it across the street.

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.

Sidewalk maker: Ed Doty

July 14, 2017

Edwin “Ed” Doty was a major maker of Oakland and East Bay sidewalks, doing business with his son Abraham “Abe” for many years as Ed Doty & Son.

Doty was born in Canada in 1862 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, but he gave conflicting information about his parents and the year he immigrated. His wife’s name was Lizzie and they had one child, Abraham (1908-2003). Ed died in 1931.

The 1909 directory lists him at 1687 26th Avenue, but the address changed to 2487 by the 1920 census. It’s a nice place; I’ll show it to you farther down.

A glass paperweight made by Ed Doty & Son, recently listed on eBay, contains the text “Trademark of Concrete Since 1907” and the address 3481 26th Avenue.

I’ve found “Ed Doty” sidewalk stamps in Oakland dating from 1923 to 1945, in a variety of configurations. From 1929 to 1931 they looked like this:

Starting in 1932, they looked like this, distinguishable by the shape of the “E” and the “O”:

There was also this variant in the early years:

At some time in 1937 the firm switched to a new design that incorporated the “concrete master” number. It used number 16 through 1938:

Starting in 1939 it used number 17. I speculate that Abe Doty had to replace his master finisher for some reason and needed a new number.

During the same years, the firm also kept using the third variant, but with hand-drawn dates:

Here’s the Doty house. Of course, Doty laid most of the concrete on the block, replacing work by the earlier generation like Stevenson.

The driveway is gorgeous, as concrete driveways go. There’s a little panel on the corner bearing a small child’s hand and foot prints. And here, in the entryway, are some more.

In writing this post, I realize that there are details about the stamps that I need to clarify, so look for updates in the comments every now and then.

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.

Sidewalk maker: Joe B. Silva

June 30, 2017

Joe B. Silva was born in the Azores and later became part of the East Bay’s thriving Portuguese community. I know little of his life because my sources are limited and because “Joe Silva” is an extremely common name. I just know he was born in 1876 and died in 1962. His first wife, Mary Rose, bore seven children and died in 1938. She was to be buried in St. Mary’s, but FindaGrave has no record of her or Joe. His second wife was named Gertrude. Both were Portuguese.

The Portuguese have a long and complex history in America, as summarized in a timeline from the Library of Congress. The same is true for California. There were divisions between the continental and Azorean/Madeiran Portuguese, who came here at different times for different reasons. The Oakland Tribune named Silva as the Grand President of the “Protective Association Union Madeiran Society” (Associação Protectora União Madeirense do Estado da Califórnia, or União Madeirense for short), which was founded in 1913 in West Oakland. A continental Portuguese society was founded here four years later.

Silva was first listed in the Oakland business directory as a cement worker in 1922, living at 3408 E. 18th Street. However, his first sidewalk stamp looked like this:

I’ve seen only three of these in Oakland, one of which is dated 1922. Why did such a proud and prominent Azorean use an Anglicized name? There were Portuguese concrete contractors before this, like the Azorean Construction Company (1909), Francisco Comachao (1912) and M. Gonçalves (1914), but most Portuguese names did not emerge on our sidewalks until the mid-1920s and later. Be that as it may, Silva soon came out with a new stamp using his real name. The earliest of these I’ve found is from June 1924, and the latest is 1937.

Oakland directories from 1923 to 1940 listed Silva at 2209 E. 15th Street.

He may also have collaborated with Albert Moniz, who hand-drew several different “Moniz-Silva” marks without dates, but I think that was more likely the much younger A. J. Silva.

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.