Glendale in the 1920s and 30s

Glendale grew tremendously in the 1920s and 30s and most residential areas (such as the one pictured above) included sidewalks that were installed by the contractor. They marked their work by stamping their names into the sidewalks. (Courtesy of the Glendale Public Library Special Collections) (December 14, 2012)

Many of Glendale’s neighborhoods were developed in the 1920s and ’30s, when it was billed as one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.

Most of these residential areas have sidewalks that were laid when the houses were built. The custom then was for the contractor to embed a stamp (sometimes called a stencil) on the sidewalks, and these stamps have become a visible history of those who built the city.

The history that those stamps preserve seems to be of interest to many people who use the city’s sidewalks.

Several months ago, resident Frank McNulty wrote, “At the time the part of the city I live in was being developed, in the 1920s-1930s, the contractors had a practice of placing a stencil in the cement sidewalks. As those sidewalks age and are replaced with new cement, the stencils are lost. These show a record of the people that actually built the city. For example, in my neighborhood, the sidewalks are stenciled with ‘Bates & Borland.’ Nearby sidewalks are stenciled with ‘Haddock-Nibley.’”

Soon after his comments appeared in Readers Write, Eileen Wallis, who has done research on sidewalk stamps in Northwest Glendale, wrote with additional information.

Most of the stamps in her area were removed when the sidewalks were redone last year, she said, but a few survive. “The stencils are usually either the names of the developers of that particular tract, or of the contractors hired to lay the sidewalks.”

One stencil that she has often seen south of Glenoaks Boulevard and west of Grandview Avenue is “J.W. Henderson, Contractor.’’ He was a Tennessee-born cement contractor who lived with his wife and four children on South Glendale Avenue.

The Bates and Borland firm that McNulty mentioned was a much larger concern, Wallis added. “It seems to have specialized in streets, working not only on Glendale’s streets but on some of the housing tracts in Leimart Park as well. In 1927, the company’s general manager was a man named Earl Tuttle.”

Haddock-Nibley was another major developer in the 1920s, she continued. It was named for its cofounders Lon J. Haddock, a former college professor from Utah, and Alexander Nibley. They developed the Glendale Heights neighborhood around the intersection of Adams Street and Palmer Avenue. An ad that ran in the Los Angeles Times in 1922 described Glendale Heights as ‘‘the wonder tract’’ and boasted that it was “an ideal residence property for men and women of modest means who care.”

“Most of these contractors are no longer in business,’’ McNulty wrote. “Since they largely built the city's residential neighborhoods, their role is a part of the city's history that should be documented before the remaining sidewalk stencils are lost.’’

According to Jay Platt — planner, historic preservation and urban design for the city of Glendale — the city is trying to identify the sidewalk stamps when various residential developments go through the historic districting process.

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Readers Write:

The story of the bandit for whom Vasquez Rocks are named is a story with special interest to local history buffs. Tiburcio Vasquez terrorized this area for months in the mid-1870s. [See Verdugo Views, Feb. 15 and 29, 2008, for more on his activities in this area.]

Mike Shea, reference librarian at the Glendale Public Library, writes that a book published in 2010, “Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez,’’ by John Boessenecker, reveals the myths behind Vasquez’s life — a myth created by Vasquez himself and aided by many sensationalist writers at the time.

According to the book’s publicity release, Vasquez was “second only to Joaquin Murietta as America’s most infamous Hispanic desperado. Born in Monterey in 1835 and hanged as a murderer in San Jose in 1875, Vasquez’s story was one of violence, banditry and retribution on the early California frontier. Was he a common thief and heartless killer, or a Mexican American Robin Hood seeking social justice?’’