Posts Tagged ‘P.M. Bruner’

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S.P. McKelvey & Co

January 27, 2012

S.P. McKelvey & Co was a big player in the sidewalk business of late 19th Century St. Louis.  A company he helped run, The St. Louis Flagstone Company, was in the sidewalk business starting in 1882 according to The Industries of St. Louis by J. W. Leonard (1887).

St. Louis Flagstone Company. — H. L. Haydel, Cashier; S. P. McKelvey, Superintendent; Stone Sidewalks; 618 Chestnut street. — This business was established in 1882 and has been conducted with steadily increasing success from that time to the present. The company have been city contractors for paving and flagging for the past three years. They handle every description of stone and have a very large business in laying sidewalks for property owners. About a year ago, Messrs. Haydel and McKelvey bought a half interest in the firm of P. M. Bruner & Co., manufacturers of Granitoid. Up to this writing the firm have made contracts during the present year for laying over 60,000 feet of stone flagging. They possess unsurpassed facilities for carrying on work in their line, and every contract taken by them is executed in a workmanlike manner, and to the entire satisfaction of the customer. Mr. Haydel is treasurer and Mr. McKelvey secretary of the St. Louis Reclining Car Seat Co., and both are gentlemen of superior business attainments, enjoying, in a marked degree, the esteem and confidence of the business community.

In 1890, he started S.P. McKelvey & Company.

Laid 1890 – S.P. McKelvey – St. Louis, MO

From Pen and Sunlight Sketches of Saint Louis: The Commercial Gateway to the South (1892):

The marvelous improvements effected in the manufacture of material for sidewalks, driveways, cellar floors, etc., has effected a complete revolution in the cement trade, and opened up fresh fields of usefulness for its representatives. One of the principal of these in St. Louis, although but recently established, the date being August 1, 1890, is the house of Messrs. S. P. McKelvey & Co., of suite 409, Commercial building. The members of the firm are Messrs. S. P. McKelvey, Frank Sullivan and R. G. Mayhew. Mr. McKelvey is a resident of Chicago, where he is connected with the Granitoid Company of that city. The granite composition stone laid down by this firm is, as its name implies, a mixture of crushed granite with cement, and presents all the desirable features of the solid stone. It is made as required at the scene of operations, and is unrivaled for sidewalks, drives, curbs, gutters, basement floors, brewery and malt house floors, steps, copings, etc., being absolutely impervious to the weather, and as durable as the stone itself. They have just completed a very extensive set of steps for the Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church, containing ten rises twenty-five feet long, with no joints whatever. They are prepared to execute the largest contracts in this useful department of industry with promptitude, and guarantee in every case perfect satisfaction. The house is rapidly acquiring a splendid connection in the city and its environs, and some idea of its rapid development may be obtained from the fact that during the first nine months of 1891, business to the value of $125,000 was transacted. Mr. Sullivan is a native of Ireland, and Mr. Mayhew of Germany, both gentlemen being popular and respected in all circles of the city. Their office is elegant in its appointments and furniture, and has every convenience for the accommodation of customers, such as telephonic communication (call No. 1461) etc. This is a pushing and enterprising house that deservedly merits its success.

The company certainly did fine work, judging from the current state of their surviving sidewalks and by the prevalence of sidewalks that they constructed.

The following is a continued history of S.P. McKelvey & Co through photographs of dated sidewalk markers.

By 1895 the company was called McKelvey, Mayhew and Graham.

McKelvey, Mayhew & Graham – Laid 1895

Just a year later, Mayhew & Graham were alone but were including the text “Successors to S.P. McKelvey & Co” on their sidewalk markers and in their advertisements.

Mayhew & Graham – Successors to S.P. McKelvey & Co.

By 1898 Mayhew and Graham no longer needed the reference.

Mayhew and Graham – 1898

Frank Sullivan (an original member of S.P. McKelvey & Company) had parted ways at least as early as 1896 (the oldest marker of his that I’ve found), but didn’t stray too far from the format of the marker that had been used at S. P. McKelvey & Co. a decade earlier.

Frank J. Sullivan – 1902

By 1903 Graham was also out on his own.

Graham Granitoid Co. – Laid 1903

Graham was in the Granitoid business at least until 1910 (the most recently dated sidewalk marker of his that I’ve found).

Graham Granitoid Co. – Laid 1910

It’s amazing to be able to see this history preserved all over the city.  As I encounter more of this company’s work, I will post updates here.

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More St. Louis Sidewalk Markers

August 26, 2011

This weekend I hit a lucky streak and found three sidewalk markers in the City of St. Louis that I had never come across before.  For some reason, in other cities I am able to spot these sidewalk stamps all over the place, but in St. Louis they’re able to elude me.  After this weekend, however, I am sure that there are many more out there.

Mayhew & Graham Granitoid - Laid 1899 St. Louis, MO

In the above photograph is my first spotting of the weekend.  It is located directly in front of the entrance to the St. Louis Braid Co. on Lucas Street, a location where I am sure it is appreciated.  On Google books I was able to find an advertisement for Mayhew & Graham in the 1896 publication, Water and Sewage Works, Volume 11.

Mayhew & Graham - Room 409 Commercial Building

According to an article in the same publication, Mayhew and Graham was reported as having “just completed a contract…for laying…eight miles of sidewalks in…Choteau Place”, referring to the Choteau Place Addition in the Greater Ville.

F.B. Klein Granitoid

This next sidewalk marker, from the F.B. Klein Granitoid Company, also has a little bit of history that can be traced via Google.  Located at 1424 Blair Avenue just north of Downtown, F.B. Klein was at least an occasional buyer of P.M. Bruner’s Granitoid according to the clipping below.

Bruner v. Klien

Ironically, just a few yards ahead of the F.B. Klein marker was a P.M. Bruner.

P.M. Bruner Granitoid

At this point I have come across many P.M. Bruner Sidewalk Markers (at least two different variations) and have seen even more in photographs on the internet.  His influence may spread at least as far as Seattle, as my speculative post from earlier this month suggests.

Granitoid Flagging

The above sidewalk marker, the last of my three new discoveries this weekend, is a very interesting example.  An intact, but otherwise identical, copy of this marker on DJDenim’s Flickr stream  shows the address on the sidewalk marker as 512 S. Jefferson Ave.  According to the American Engineering Register of 1885, the resident at the address was a Civil Engineer by the name of Bruner, P.M..   I wonder what it was about 512 S. Jefferson that made it so appealing to these men of Granitoid?

Stretch of Different Sidewalk Squares

This exercise of researching sidewalk contractors using Google demonstrates the ability of the search engine, and the value of the these remarkable links to the past.  As I learn more about this one aspect of cities, my overall understanding of their urban histories is increased as well. To see my entire collection of sidewalk contractor stamp/marker photos, visit this flickr map.  Locations are often only as specific as the city that the sidewalk is in, but are sometimes more accurate.

Update:

This afternoon I went up to The Ville and found three sidewalk markers that correspond with the 1896 article on Mayhew & Graham.

Mayhew & Graham - Laid 1896

Pretty cool, huh?

And here is a flickr set of all my St. Louis sidewalk marker photos.

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P.M. Bruner Sidewalk Lights in Seattle, WA

August 3, 2011

As I walk down unfamiliar sidewalks I make sure not to ignore the ground, always on the lookout for sidewalk markers.  Due to this conditioned vigilance, I have accumulated a decent photographic collection of these markers from cities all around the country.  Right now for example, I am in Aurora, IL, a Chicago Exurb whose attractive city center is loaded with sidewalk markers that I am quite happy to have stumbled upon.  This particular sidewalk contractor stamp includes an exact date:

Happy 29th Birthday!

The details that some sidewalk stamps carry provide starting points for research that can reveal much about a city’s past.  While visiting Seattle last month I came across a nice selection of sidewalk stamps and markers, the bulk of them concentrated in Pioneer Square.  Pioneer Square has a remarkable history as Seattle’s original downtown.  After the “Great Seattle Fire” of 1889 (seems like every American city has had a great fire), the city began rebuilding immediately, but soon after reconstruction had begun planners made the decision to raise the streets up a story to remedy a problem with flooding during high tide.  During this transition, building entrances were moved up to what became street level, and new sidewalks were built one story above the old ones.  Because the original ground level entrances were sometimes still in use underground, many sidewalks in this area have skylights to allow light into the passages below.  A popular tourist attraction, the Seattle Underground Tour, allows you to walk along some of these underground sidewalks and listen to bad jokes.

Sidewalk Skylight as Seen from the Underground Tour

These skylights are all over Pioneer Square and are hard to miss for even someone with only a casual interest in sidewalks (I assume).  The fact that so many of the sidewalks in Pioneer Square are over 100 years old is awesome to me, but, after almost a month in Seattle and regular trips to Pioneer Square and other sections of the city’s historic core, I stopped carrying my camera after dark.  I figured that anything I was interested in, I had already photographed several times.  Thank God for camera phones, because on one of my last nights in Seattle I looked down and saw this:

Installed by L.A. Norris - Bruner Patents

This sight brought me back almost to the beginning of my relationship with sidewalk markers.  An interest that began after coming across a St. Louis Sidewalk Company sidewalk marker.  After making this initial discovery I started enthusiastically searching the internet for more, and the first bit of gold I struck was a flickr photo of a P.M. Bruner Sidewalk marker in Tower Grove East.  I immediately began walking blocks in the neighborhood until I found them myself, and since then I have come across several identical markers in other sections of the city.

P.M. Bruner Sidewalk Marker

Almost every new sidewalk marker I see gets its text googled, and this one was no exception.  Unlike most cement contractors, however, P.M. Bruner has a pretty serious online presence, particularly if you perform a Google Patent search.  Interestingly enough, Preston Martin Bruner of St. Louis, Missouri holds several patents for Sidewalk Lights that closely resemble those visible in the photo of L.A. Norris’ sidewalk.

Sidewalk Light Construction - P.M. Bruner

Is it possible that a St. Louisan designed this technology that helps make Seattle’s Pioneer Square so cool?  It is very possible, but unfortunately, all I can do is speculate and continue to keep my eyes and ears open.  If anyone has more information on this subject, please share.

Update:

I found a website with a photo of a P.M. Bruner sidewalk with “vault lights” in Houston, TX.

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