When was the first sidewalk poured in Corvallis? And what came first, paved streets or sidewalks?
Those questions are answered in a new historical tour that is set to debut during National Historic Preservation Month.
Doug Eaton, Ross Parkerson and M’Liss Runyon, who have teamed up on brochures for several historic house tours, have put together a new brochure that looks at the sidewalk markers that contractors have carved into the cement.
The new tours cover five neighborhoods: downtown, Avery Helm, Central Park, Franklin Square and College Hill, and Eaton and Parkerson are offering a personal guided tour of the downtown sites May 14 (see information box).
A tour on Tuesday started at Squirrel’s. A squirrel and the tavern’s opening date of 1974 are carved into the sidewalk on Monroe Avenue outside the building, which is one of the oldest brick structures in Corvallis. A few feet away, however, is a metal curb — one of the few left in the city.
“They protected the curbs from the steel wheels of the old wagons,” Parkerson said.
A few doors down Second Street, in front of Street Dogs, lies the oldest dated marker in the city. Eaton kneels down on the pavement to brush away the dirt: 1906, it says.
“We looked at the question of which came first, the paving of Second or the sidewalk,” Eaton said. “This 1906 marker confirms that the sidewalks came first because the first paving wasn’t until 1910.”
The numeral “1” almost has disappeared. Eaton and his team have been collecting photographs of all of the 250 markers they have found to make sure there is a permanent record.
An imprint of a rifle and the word HODES can be found at 137 S.W. Second St. Parkerson said the marker refers to a gun shop that used to be at that address. There is no date on the marker, but Parkerson thinks it might date as far back as 1895.
At Second and Adams, a 1912 marker from the Concrete Construct Co. is stamped in a curving pattern that was used on only five or six markers in the city, Parkerson said.
Looking at the marker, Eaton notes there is a “mystery we have not solved; what did the stamps look like?”
Strolling down Second Street with Eaton and Parkerson you also learn that Herman Henry Heuckendorff’s sidewalk work is the longest-lasting, and that The Clothes Tree plans to remount an old clock at its former First National Bank building at Second and Madison.
Outside the Beanery at Second and Washington is a W S Burnap stamp that says 1917. Eaton notes the historical progression: 1906 sidewalks, followed by 1912 and now 1917 as you move south.
The sidewalk at the Burnap stamp is cracked and bumpy.
“That’s definitely not Heuckendorff cement,” Parkerson said. “He knew how to mix his concrete.”
Eaton also noted that the city has been helpful in preserving many of the stamps.
“You have to credit Ross for bringing awareness of this to the city,” Eaton said. “The city will cut around and save them when they can.”
In fact, according to city associate planner Bob Richardson, the city amended its Land Development Code to support its efforts to preserve the stamps.
Heading back up Second on the west side of the street, you encounter eight horse rings — the only ones left in the city. Some are completely intact. Some are bent or fused to the sidewalk. In others, the ring is gone, with only the U-shaped anchor bolt in the concrete.
As the tour brochures mount up, Eaton and Parkerson said they are considering trying to consolidate them in book form.
“It’s not developed yet,” Eaton said. “It would be a good way for people to understand the history of these markers and the contractors,” Parkerson said. “It could be a good historical addition to what we already know about Corvallis.”