Into the Breach Craft Detected

Sidewalk Stamps, Berkeley and Oakland, CA

I look at the ground a lot but my interest is in interpreting spray-painted utility marks. I have noticed sidewalk stamps before but not really “seen” them until this project, and now they’re everywhere I look.

Sidewalk stamps quietly memorialize maker, place, and time. The sidewalks were created at the same time as the houses they border and these stamps reflect three periods of growth in the East Bay: right after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, during the prosperous 1920s before the Great Depression, and during World War I to accommodate the influx of shipyard workers. All of these marks are along Alcatraz Avenue, between Telegraph and Adeline, in Berkeley.

The concrete is a mix of locally-made portland cement and stone quarried just a few miles away. Some of the marks are very faded by time but others can be read clearly, especially when flower petals, moss, or dirt fill the letters. I think of gravestones but also continuity. I think about the people who made the sidewalks and imagine them walking, like me, and seeing their own name and handiwork.