The Streets of Vancouver

More than 100 years ago various contractors began paving the sidewalks of Vancouver, WA. Like any artist they signed their work - by stamping their names right into the concrete. I'm sure you've seen them. As a matter of fact the contractors were required by ordinance to provide these identifications.  Even though changes have been made over the years, many of the stamps still exist, and many people feel they are worth preserving.

In the 1980's many ADA ramps were installed in the Arnada neighborhood, and several old stamps were preserved by insetting them in a new concrete frame next to the corner from which they were removed, as in this example on the left. These are presented under the heading Saved Stamps More recently, however, these historic stampings have been simply discarded.

The present ADA ramp project under consideration is Columbia St. from15th to 46th. It is hoped that we may save many of the historic stampings as was done in Arnada. A citizen's committee has been formed and public meetings will be held by the city in order to find a way to modernize the intersections while still preserving the historic feeling of the streets, as well as the contractor's stamps.

As a first step, my daughter Debra and I have taken extensive photos of all the corners which contain stamps, and put hard copies into books which shall reside at the Clark County Historical Museum, which provided a wealth of material and great resources. I found that museum volunteer Richard Reay was researching the names of streets and street contractors, so we began to work together. What you see here is a joint effort. So we now have photo documentation as of November 2006. The stamps occur at the intersections of Columbia and 19th, 20th, 21st, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th, 36, 37th, 38th, 42nd, and 45th. Seventeen intersections with a total of 187 stamps of 36 unique designs. Over 700 photos.

The photo project presents the stamps in context, so we see not only the stamps, but the houses, conditions of the walks, etc. Most intersections have about 50 pictures. This website will present only about 16 photos per intersection under Sidewalk Stamps, but CDs which contain the whole project will be available for purchase .

Our method was to take the corners of an intersection in counterclockwise order from the SW corner, and at each corner take the set of pictures in a counterclockwise order.

In our picture taking we also noticed a lot of typographical errors, which made for a lot of fun and speculation. These typos will be shown in the section titled Bloopers.

Under the heading Miscellaneous Stamps you will stamps from all over the city. I have tried to get an example from every street in the downtown area. There are many streets, however, that have been changed or vacated so their stamps are gone forever. To me the most interesting stamps are of the original names of streets, which were changed. In the photo below at 17th & Daniels, stamps for both the original and modern name still exist side by side.

I hope you enjoy the website, and will help us preserve these historic stamps by attending the public meetings.

Tom Laidlaw and Deb Brouhard, Dec. 2006


tomlaidlaw@comcast.net