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URBAN HIKE

Sidewalk Special
updated: Jul 30, 2011, 10:00 AM

By Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright

This week we continued our quest to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the city limits of Santa Barbara. But rather than report on a specific adventure, we've decided to share with you some of the photos of sidewalk contractor stamps and other interesting sidewalk markings we've seen along the way.

Some of you may recall that our very first Urban Hikers submission to Edhat concerned something we had seen along our hiking route, even before we had officially become the "Urban Hikers". More specifically it was a "Strange Symbol" that we photographed and submitted in hopes that the incredibly intelligent Edhat readers could and would help us identify it. After hiking the vast majority of the city, we are still partial to this mark. We loved it first, and we still love it best.

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When we posted the story, readers offered their ideas about what the mark meant. Some said it had to do with the artist formerly known as Prince and we liked that. Others speculated that the mark was some sort of brand, adorning the sidewalk outside the residence of an iron worker who lived there in the 1930's. Some even offered that the sign might have something to do with the Mission; or perhaps it was a relic from Santa Barbara's Chinatown. We're still unsure about all of this, but we do know that the sidewalk across the streets dates from 1920, so we figure the brand is from about that era.

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And next to the "strange symbol" is another unusual stamp.

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But, what we've noticed in our travels around the town is that C.C. Pike may have been the longest running sidewalk contractor in Santa Barbara. As proof, we offer the oldest stamp that we've found, which is dated 1903.

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The stamp (located near the stonework toward the bottom right corner of the photo below) was placed at what appears to have been a driveway. Since we know the stamp dates from 1903, we wonder whether the sidewalk/ driveway was built for a horse and carriage or for a horseless carriage. That particular stamp is located in the 1400 block of Garden Street, across from what is now Kids World.

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Mr. Pike was prolific about town and left his mark on many sidewalks from the early 1900's and into the 1930's. Here we present the other examples of his work that we've come across.

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If you're beginning to think we're a little unusual or even possibly a bit nerdy because of our fascination with sidewalk markings, you may be right. But we are not alone. Nor are we as intense in our passion as others seem to be. We did an internet search and found a few articles to prove this point. There's a guy who first recognized the beauty of sidewalk marks in St. Louis, and subsequently traveled to Philadelphia, Chicago, Spokane, Colorado Springs, Denver, Albuquerque and Tucson in search of more. Here's the link. And the City of Portland, Oregon has found sidewalk contractors' stamps to be so significant that they've cataloged them, and put the catalog on their website. Here's the link to the city's website - if you do a search on the site for sidewalk contractor stamps, you'll get the catalog in a PDF format. But we were most excited to learn of the work of Lincoln Cushing, another "stamp collector" who has a stamp listed in his archives that he found in Santa Barbara! Here's the link to his website.

And so, without further ado, and in no particular order, we present to you a portion of the stamps we've collected on the city streets of Santa Barbara, and explain why we like what we saw.

We like the inclusion of the phone number

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The simplicity of Mr. Bradbury's stamp

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A rare curb stamp

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The way Mr. Hodson's changed over the years - but we prefer the old one by far

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As did Western Motors'

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Sam Hunter was very thorough

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The Municipal Improvement Company is simply classic

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Messieurs Bonilla & Carreno appear to have become partners after solo careers

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Nicholas Berry's stamp is very straightforward

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Messieurs Cornwall, Morrison and Richardson made their stamps to read from either direction

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Mr. Richardson once had a partner named Mr. Hunter

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Jule Maurel has a cool name

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Cox and Sissom are a mainstay of our local sidewalks

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Three guys teamed up here - Messieurs Fairchild, Gilmore & Wilton ...we guess they just listed their names in alphabetical order.

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C.E. Green's original Art Deco stamp morphed into a no-nonsense modern one

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We all know that contractors aren't the only ones who enjoy leaving their marks in freshly poured concrete. We've come across countless examples of this, and share just a few more shots with you here.

We like this warning

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And not far from it we found what appears to be a wine jug...any connection?

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This one is from a bygone era for sure - it's located across the street from Roosevelt School

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And we're not certain, but we believe these prints may have been left by the guy in the gorilla suit.

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As mentioned, these are just a fraction of what we have seen as we walk the streets, with our eyes downcast. As you know, we've found misspelled street names, street names with backward letters, evidence of changes in the names of our streets, many more and different contractor stamps, and even a street name that no longer exists. In fact, does anyone in Edhatland know where Putnam Ave. is or was? We do.

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And lastly, please indulge us in a bit of commentary about the sidewalks of our town and those across America. After walking nearly all of Santa Barbara's sidewalks, we've become rather fond, if not downright proud of them. If you look at the websites we mentioned above you'll see that in comparison, we have an amazing number of well-preserved stamps, marks and other historically significant sidewalk features dotting the sidewalks of our town. We think we have more than most other places do. We are saddened that some of these relics are being destroyed in the pursuit of "improving" sidewalks with bulb-outs and other unnecessary modifications. We support the addition of ramps for baby strollers, wheelchairs and the like, but we wish that those who are responsible for these important changes would do what they can to preserve the sidewalk marks, stamps and signs from our past. Other cities, such as Tucson and Berkeley have started to actively preserve their historical sidewalk features, and we would like to see that happening here in Santa Barbara. We have a very rich local history, and it's well worth preserving.

If you, our dear readers, are interested in this subject and wish to see more of our "stamp collection" - along with other fascinating sidewalk marks and signage - please let us know and we'll publish a future edition of sidewalks marks. We realize not everyone is as geeky as we are, and don't want to bore you with minutia, but if you WANT to see more, just say the word.

As always we encourage you to go on foot and explore our wonderful community, to discover new and different things and above all to keep your eyes, ears and minds open in your travels.

 

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