28 December, 2009

Sidewalk Secrets

I have a new hobby. I have been collecting the markings stamped into the cement of the sidewalks in my neighborhood by the various contractors who built them. Also, any markings that other people have made by hand in the wet concrete, particularly those with dates. Thus, I have found that Schnoor and Sons (later Schnoor Bros.) paved pretty much all of Albany in the late 1920's, while the Jepsen Bros. were in charge of Westbrae (the area between Cedar and Gilman) in the early 1920's. I have yet to determine whether they were competitors, as my earliest Schnoor stamp is 1922, and my latest Jepsen one is 1921. These two companies, as well as Anthony Ancalerio (1950's), C. Rapella (1960's) are the ones I see most frequently represented on my walks, but today I discovered (!!) that O. Schubert and Hall & Coggins were in HEAVY competition in Westbrae in 1913 and 1914. Sometimes their stamps are within only a few feet of each other. Or maybe they worked together? My favorite stamps are the WPA ones from the 1930's. Right now I have photos of dates in cement (including those handwritten*) for many of the last 100 years (1909 is my earliest one, 2008 is the latest) and my goal is to create a chronology of the neighborhood through these markings. Here are a few examples. I will post a the full collection when it is complete.

*Of the handwritten markings, it is interesting to note how few people seem to date their signatures and handprints. What I am finding is that adults tend to write dates, while children do not, and of course children make up the majority of cement artists.


Addendum! I have just found this wonderful website devoted to sidewalk stamps in Oakland, which also led me to these two articles: from the Berkeley Daily Planet and here.

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