Oakland Paving

oakland paving company

Oakland’s sidewalks are full of old mason’s marks. They’re like fossils in the city’s hardscape. Since I started paying attention to them a few years back, the oldest have reached a century’s age. There’s a mark on 49th Street that dates from 1906, another at John and Gilbert streets from 1907, and several around town from 1908. Some of the makers operated from addresses that don’t exist any more, such as one from a street number that’s now underneath the Kaiser complex, or from streets that have changed their names. If someone has a blog about them (and why not?), let us know.

Just last week I learned that the operator of the Rockridge Shopping Center quarry was called the Oakland Paving Company. The very next day, I spotted this mark on Claremont Boulevard near The Uplands. Presumably, if we broke this pavement open we’d see gravel made of the quarry’s basalt inside. That is, the quarry produced the aggregate, while the cement came from elsewhere, possibly the giant plant in Davenport, which has produced cement since 1903 (and which I’ll be visiting this weekend). My hypothesis is that the Oakland Paving Co didn’t do much of this labor-intensive retail-type work making sidewalks, which is why its maker’s marks are so rare. But they say the best geologist is the one who’s seen the most rocks, and maybe I just need to see more marks.

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14 Responses to “Oakland Paving”

  1. Silver Fox Says:

    Are all the old marks from Oakland Paving Company? It’s pretty historically interesting that there are a few such old pieces of sidewalk here and there – something some historical archaeologists should be documenting (if you don’t end up doing it!).

  2. SW Says:

    If you’re curious about historic local cement plants, you might check out the prominent ruins of one in American Canyon. It’s scheduled to be redeveloped as a new town center, so don’t dally. The site also operated as a basalt processor of some sort for a while if I recall correctly. You can find it directly east of the new Wal-Mart.

  3. Andrew Says:

    Silver Fox, there are lots of old sidewalks in Oakland, which has been a suburb-city since the late 1800s. A big pulse of people came after the 1906 earthquake, and buildout has been steady ever since. But of the hundreds of marks I’ve seen, this is the first from Oakland Paving Co.

    SW, thanks for the tip. As far as I know there isn’t any limestone up there, which is the key ingredient for cement manufacture. Perhaps this plant imported the lime, or made concrete instead.

  4. christie Says:

    Ah Davenport…. fish tacos…. wow I miss mexican food. Anyway Granite Rock has provided the aggregates for Bay Area paving since the early 1900s and there are plenty of folks around there who will talk company history, if you want to dig into it… could be evident in “outcrop” if you find the tell tale granodiorite from the Aromas quarry.

  5. SW Says:

    Here’s a history of the AmCan cement plant from the local paper:

    http://www.americancanyoneagle.com/articles/2005/04/26/features/community/story-781.txt

    It says they quarried the limestone at Napa Junction.

    The ruins are quite impressive if you get a chance to take a look.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Thanks for finding that. The reporter is a little confused about cement/concrete manufacture, but apparently the plant started out making cement, then switched to making aggregate and the cement additive pozzolan.

  7. Ron Says:

    Hello,

    I have many of the original ledgers (1900’s-1920’s) and am beginning basic research on the history of the Co. please contact me. Thank you.-Ron

  8. thanks Says:

    I just found this blog, and it seems fantastic! Very interesting twist, too, by the way…

  9. Darby Says:

    The Albany Concrete Co. poured sidewalks on the side of my house in the Brooklyn neighborhood in Oakland in 1939 according to the mark.

  10. Allan Says:

    Question – I live in Rockridge Terrace -on Contra Costa Rd. We are near the top of the ridge that drops off to Lake Temescal. Some neighbors report a natural spring on their property. Is it possible that a spring exits so close to the top of the ridge – or is it more likely that a EBMUD pipe is leaking?

    Thanks

  11. Andrew Says:

    Allan, I wouldn’t rule out a spring, especially on the downhill side of the street. If you look at the topography there (Google Maps has a handy tab for that) you’ll see several well-formed gullies leading into the Rockridge branch of Temescal Creek (which runs along Broadway Terrace). That area has a fair amount of moisture, and plenty of trees and runoff to keep the water table high. And the slope is so steep up there that someone on the downhill side of the road could have property 80 feet or so below the ridge top in their back corner.

    But I wouldn’t rule out a leak either. If your neighbors can’t seem to reduce their water usage, it might be a leak from their line. A leak from above their meter wouldn’t register, though, so EBMUD might have to investigate.

  12. Bill D. Says:

    Oakland paving was the Anson Family. Not sure of the fathers first name. His son Anson Blake took over as president about 1910? Anson’s house is now the house where the University of Califonia president lives in Kensington. the gardens are open to the public weekdays910 acres). I believe the house is cast concrete but it is ironic that the driveway is gravel and not paved. There is a Blake street in El Cerrito named after them.
    The Family ran the Blake quarry in Richmond. A cousin Eli Whitney Blake(yes some relation) invented something to do with rock crushing. Their cousin was William Howard Taft.
    Bill D.

  13. Andrew Says:

    Thanks for that info–I assume you mean Blake in the first sentence, not Anson. Here’s a page from an 1896 state mineralogist’s report with some details, including mention of Blake crushers. Another discussion of old Oakland quarries begins here in the 1893 report.

  14. Andrew Says:

    By the way I should mention that I’ve started a new blog specifically for Oakland sidewalk stamps at oaklandsidewalks.wordpress.com.

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