Miller-Built Sidewalk Plaque

My friend Ashley saw my recent post on sidewalk stamps, something she admitted she hadn’t given much thought to in the past.  But when she was visiting Washington, D.C. the other day, she noticed this awesome bronze sidewalk plaque set into concrete.


I love how old fashioned the font is, and how pebbly the concrete surface has become over time.  It’s clearly old, but I had no idea it was probably installed in the 1930s.  According to the Ghosts of DC blog, Miller-Built houses were developed by W.C. and A.N. Miller. Most of the Miller-Built houses constructed in the 20s and 30s were built in the American University Park, Spring Valley, and Wesley Heights neighborhoods in Northwest DC – neighborhoods north and west of the Cathedral, for those of you who don’t know DC very well.  The Ghosts website has a cool advertisement from 1939 describing Miller-Built houses.  According to a 1940 article in the Washington Post, also cited on the Ghosts blog,

“For 28 years ‘Miller-Built’ has been synonymous with fine architectural design and home construction, standing for quality in structural fitness, durability, meritorious architecture, comfort, convenience, livability, charm and good taste.

With developments of Wesley Heights and Spring Valley, the company has given to Washington a ‘Garden of Beautiful Homes.’ Today, these are established communities of character where residences of impressive proportions find perfect settings. Nature provided the land with rolling contours and an abundance of large trees, even brooks and streams. the developers planned the highways to blend into this environment and each home is designed to coordinate with contour, location and compass bearings of the lot.”

These were some of the most elegant modern houses built in DC in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, and they were priced accordingly.  Needless to say, they attracted wealthy Washingtonians who were interested in tasteful homes in carefully planned communities.

Right after college I lived in DC, not to far from Wesley Heights.  I used to take long walks around Wesley Heights and AU Park admiring the old houses, which were admittedly not quite as old as those in Georgetown but seemed to have been designed to blend with their lush, wooded environment.  Who knew all these years later that I’d learn more about the developers of those neighborhoods thanks to a sidewalk stamp!

Amazingly, the W.C. and A.N. Miller company is still in real-estate development after 102 years.  They build and manage shopping centers in the DC area, and their designs incorporate Colonial details such as Flemish bond brickwork, Georgian-style windows, and stone or cast stone string courses and balustrades.

If any of you come across any interesting sidewalk stamps, send them my way!  I’m always interested in “collecting” more.

City Sidewalks – Sidewalk Stamps Part 2

I love discovering interesting sidewalk stamps pressed into the concrete sidewalks of Denver.  But every time I see one of these City Sidewalk Co. stamps, I can’t help but start singing the Christmas song, “Silver Bells”.


As the song goes, soon it will be Christmas day.  So in honor of the holidays and those city sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style, we’re going to look at some of Denver’s more interesting sidewalk stamps.  Let’s call it Sidewalk Stamps – Part 2. (Part 1 can be found here.)

The City Sidewalk Co. was one of the more prevalent concrete sidewalk installers in the city.  Many of their stamps are illegible today, probably because the type face they used was so narrow with little spacing between letters.  De-icing salts and freeze-thaw cycling probably ruined many of their stamps.  But if you see a curvy rectangle that lifts up at the left and down at the right, you’re looking at a City Sidewalk Co. sidewalk.

JohnSandovalstampAnother prevalent sidewalk layer was John Sandoval, who seemed to be in business between the 1960s and 1980s.  I couldn’t find anything about him on the internet, but his stamp is often associated with textured concrete sidewalks, such as this wavy one below.  He also did “spotted” sidewalks, with evenly placed indents every centimeter or closer.

A friend of mine told me an interesting story about John Sandoval.  When she first moved into her house in West Highlands, one of her neighbors stopped by with a bottle of wine.  He welcomed her to the neighborhood and pointed out the wavy sidewalk in front of her house that was paved by John Sandoval.  He said John Sandoval was his uncle and the textured paving patterns were his calling card.  I’ve kept that in the back of my mind, and every time I see a wavy or spotted sidewalk, it’s been stamped by John Sandoval.  He clearly took pride in his work, and gave simple sidewalks a little bit of artistry.

Several sidewalk stamps reference the supplier of the concrete, along with the installer.  This one was made of Ideal Portland Cement and was laid by Ford Rogers in 1962.


Another Ideal Portland stamp shows it was laid by Martin & Martin, though there is no date associated with it.


Sometimes you can find an Ideal Cement bronze plaque installed into the sidewalk all by itself.  This one was laid into “spotted”-texture concrete, so it was probably laid by John Sandoval.

IdealstampIdeal Portland Cement was a product of the Colorado Portland Cement Company of Portland, Colorado, a town to the east of Cañon City.  (Although you may proudly think that Portland cement was invented in Portland, Colorado, the cement actually gets its name from Portland stone, quarried in England.  When it was first developed in England, Portland cement was said to be similar in appearance to Portland stone.  Like many towns in Colorado, Portland, Colorado was named after its primary industry.  But I digress.)  The Colorado Portland Cement Company was owned by Charles Boettcher, who made a fortune in mining, cement and sugar beets (an obvious sister industry to mining and cement?).  You may recognize his name because his family is one of the major benefactors the Denver Botanic Gardens and donated the funds to build Boettcher Concert Hall.

Plaques are pretty rare, as most sidewalks have stamps pressed into them.  I have come across a few W. Rahn Denver bronze plaques, such as the one below, but infrequently.  I can’t seem to find anything about the company.


But I did find out that the Thoutt Bros. Concrete Contractors is still alive and well.  This sidewalk was installed only seven years after the company was founded.  I like that the stamp appears to have been made with handmade letters, rather than with machine-bought lettering.


Similarly, J. A. Conley & Son had a homemade feel to their stamp.  According to Tonja Dillon Castaneda’s book, Thornton, part of the Images of America series, Jim Conley founded the J.A. Conley & Son concrete contracting company in Thornton, Colorado.  They were in business from 1956 to 1977, and laid concrete sidewalks all over Thornton and the northern parts of Denver.


Finally, I had a good laugh when I came across the sidewalk stamp below.  I wonder if John Oates had a concrete business too?


A quick aside: while Googling some of the concrete contractors’ names, I came across this Tumblr blog, Lain By, which documents sidewalk stamps in Capitol Hill.  Check it out.  It’s amazing!

Denver’s Original Bus Terminal Parking Garage

If you are ever in downtown Denver and are looking for a place to park your car, check out this incredible Art Deco temple to the automobile. Located at 1730 Glenarm Place, this dilapidated parking garage was once the city’s bus terminal parking garage.


It was constructed in 1929 and was designed by engineers Shankland and Ristine [pdf].  There is not much information about Shankland on the internet, but Ristine appears to be G.W. Ristine, Jr., a Cornell alumnus.  Ristine was an engineering jack of all trades specializing at various times in mechanical, transportation and structural engineering.

Buildings designed by structural engineers are typically utilitarian, but the Denver Bus Terminal Parking Garage has an ornate, Deco façade.


Although the building is heavily soiled, you can see travertine panels below the parking sign in the photo above.  This travertine, which was used to clad the building’s base, was quarried locally at Wellesville, Colorado (according to Messages in Stone: Colorado’s Colorful Geology, eds. Vincent Matthews, Ph.D., Katie Keller Lynn, and Betty Fox. Colorado Geological Survey, 2003, p. 121-123).  Here is another detail of the travertine.  Also note the ornate ironwork at the entry soffit.


The body of the building was erected using poured-in-place concrete, which was poured into wood molds.  Do you see faint horizontal lines at the right in the photo below?  These are the seams of the wood planks used to create the mold.  The fluted piers that surround the windows above the entries are also made of poured concrete.  They are heavily spalled, and you can see exposed steel reinforcement bar (rebar) in several places.


The spandrel panels above the second floor depict rams heads, while those on the upper floors have geometric patterns.  It is difficult to determine what material was used to create the rams heads, but the crispness of their detail suggests they are probably cast metal.  The geometric spandrel panels, seen below, are pigmented concrete.  Note the deco-style finials at this portion of the parapet.  Another thing to notice is that most of the original steel window sash remain; this is fairly rare, as steel windows are notoriously poor insulators and were often replaced within thirty years of a building’s construction.


The Bus Terminal Parking Building was originally used to park intra-city busses, but it also had parking spots for 500 cars.  Offices, located at the ground floor, were once occupied by bus transportation and touring companies.  The building is still used for parking, but its ground-floor storefront appears vacant.

Another thing I wanted to point out: if you walk around to the side of the building you will see red hollow-clay tile infill set into a grid of cast concrete.  It appears that the building was once much larger, though I have not come across any documents that indicate when this might have occurred.  I would guess that when the bus depot moved, the owner lopped off the north and south sides of the building.  Fortunately the south side is largely obscured by a contemporary building, but the north side is fully exposed over this parking lot.