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.


Sidewalk Stamps

One of my favorite discoveries about Denver is the plethora of sidewalk stamps indicating who laid the concrete and the year the sidewalk was installed – concrete business cards, if you like.

Sidewalk stamps are interesting to look at, but you can also see the pattern of economic booms and busts in the stamps.  Many sidewalks were laid from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, and then again from the late-1970s to early-1980s.  Both of these periods were times of strong growth in Denver.  Similarly, I did not see many stamps between the early-1980s and the mid-1990s, a period of economic struggle for the city.

Sidewalk stamps also tell us a lot about the city’s changing demographics.  Many of the concrete sidewalks laid in the 1950s and 60s were stamped with Irish, Scottish or English names.  There were also a few German names on stamps from that period, as well as an Italian contractor or two.  By the 1990s, companies with Latin American names start appearing on the sidewalk stamps.

But enough about trends.  Let’s take a look at some of the common stamps found on Denver sidewalks.  Most are pretty boring – a name and two-figure date surrounded by a rectangle.  This one from Rogers Concrete was installed in 1995.


Based on the stamps I’ve seen, it is clear that Rogers has been around for a long time, though their stamp hasn’t changed much over the years.  Below is a Rogers Concrete stamp from 1964.  I’m amazed that this sidewalk is 50 years old and is still in great shape.  I’m equally amazed that Rogers Concrete is still in business.


Other common stamps are modified ovals, such as the one below that says “Laid By I.M. Mitchell 1981 Contractor”.


But some stamps are more ornate. The stamp below is in the form of a shield and says “Laid By Architectural Cement Const. Co. Denver, Colo.”.  I especially like the old-fashioned shape of the A in Architectural.


Not all stamps are pressed into the concrete.  Bronze plaques, while somewhat rare, are seen all over the city. Here’s one by Rogers Concrete from 1970 – a departure from their simple rectangular stamp.


I like the plaque below by the Hinchman-Renton Co.  I was able to find out a little bit about Hinchman-Renton, which was a reinforced concrete and fireproofing company based in Denver.  They developed several innovated methods for fireproofing columns using barbed wire as concrete reinforcement.  Hinchman-Renton was in business from about the turn of the 20th century until about the middle of the 20th century.


And the plaque below is a puzzle.  I studied it for a while to figure out what it said: “Iola Cement”, not “Cieomelnat”.  It turns out that the Iola Portland Cement Company, based in Kansas, was one of the largest Portland cement manufacturers in the United States in the early 20th century.  The style of this stamp suggests it is from the middle of the 20th century.  By that time the company had been sold to Lehigh Cement, now owned by Heidelberg Cement, which is one of the largest cement producers in the world.


But my favorite type of sidewalk stamp is this one:


I will bet the kids whose footprints and handprints grace this sidewalk never guessed their stamps would survive forty years and counting!