Month: May 2014

Curbspotting

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This started with running.

I run for pleasure and for exercise. Sometimes it’s an excuse to get outside. A couple of years ago, while training for a long race, I began running longer distances into parts of Austin through which I had previously only driven. Somewhere along the way, I began to notice names and dates stamped into the concrete of sidewalks and curbs. My work is near downtown, so I am often running or walking in central Austin, in some of the older parts of town. In the “original city” area, you can find, stamped into concrete, names and dates which cannot be found anywhere else. I began collecting them until I had a list of more than ten. Surprised at how many there were, and needing a way to organize what I found, I did what anyone would do: I made a spreadsheet.

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The more I looked, the more lines my spreadsheet required. And then, weeks passed with no new discoveries. Out of the corner of my eye, I’d see some letters on a curb, which upon closer examination would turn out to be random black marks from rubber tires. Over and over I determined that no new curb marks remained, after which I would have a spate of new finds.

It didn’t take long to develop preferences. Some of the marks are obviously more common, easier to find. I tend to appreciate the older ones more, since they are rarer, having been replaced by new curbs and sidewalks over many decades. At first I underappreciated the ubiquitous “Maufrais” brand, until I found that it is so well-represented in Austin because the family name belonged to generations of business owners. A city of Austin directory for 1897-1898 indicated that Alexis Maufrais had a cement works (and a grocery) at 817 W. 12th (current location of Dynamic Reprographics.) The original Maufrais & Co. (William Maufrais and W. R. Grimes) were contemporaries with all three Brueggemanns. So now I look for the older, rarer types of Maufrais marks, distinguished by the shape of the letters as well as by their locations and wearing.

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Who knows when (if?) this will end?

Brueggemann

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At left above is a sidewalk in Judges Hill, on the west side of Pearl Street, running north from 17th Street. Permission for its construction was granted to the property owner, Mr. H. A. Thomson, and documented in the Austin City Council minutes of July 8, 1915. The same artist’s other work on Pearl Street is pictured at right.

Hugo Brueggemann was the younger brother of Max Brueggemann, both sons of Julius and Augusta Brueggemann, who immigrated from Germany. (Their name is sometimes spelled Bruggemann or Brueggeman.) According to the plaque (below), Julius had worked on the State Capitol, which was opened to the public on April 21, 1888. Augusta would have been carrying Hugo at that time, so he was likely born in or near Austin.

The three men worked as cement contractors in the early 20th century. Julius is listed in the 1912-1913 city directory as a manufacturer of artificial stone, such as the molded concrete blocks used to build their house at 107 W. 30th Street.

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Below, the work of Julius Brueggemann:

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The impressions of J.BRUEGGEMANN pictured above are exceedingly rare. Their locations: a sidewalk on the south side of Tenth Street, east of Congress Avenue; a curb at the southwest corner of Duval at 33rd Street; the eastern curb on Rio Grande near 27th Street; two curbs and a sidewalk, all within two blocks west of Lamar on 6th.

Below are some of the signed works of Max Brueggemann, also very rare.

Locations: 33rd Street east of King Street, Avenue G south of 43rd, Duval near 30th Street.

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More from Max: 2nd and Brushy, corner of Avenue G and 43rd, 16th west of Rio Grande.

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Julius, Max, and Hugo, along with other family members, are now interred at Oakwood Cemetery.

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The father, Julius, died in 1922, and his wife, Augusta, followed him three years later. Max and Hugo died within a few weeks of each other, a few months before the United States’ entry into World War II. Their sister, Hilda Brueggemann, married into the Girard family and bore a child who died in infancy. The gravestone, simple and heartbreaking, reads “Baby Girard.” Hilda died in 1972. Were any born to carry on the family concrete business? I believe some of Julius’ descendants live in Austin still. But I wonder if we are the only ones remembering them and their works. I will visit their grave sites again.