Sidewalk plaques | What’s up with that?
Are contractors allowed to advertise on the public way?
Am I the only one who’s noticed all these little metal plates in the city’s sidewalks? They’re usually engraved with the name of a contractor and a date. Are those companies legally allowed to stick their names on the public way?—M.H., Ukrainian Village
Not only is it perfectly legal for a contractor to adorn a newly built sidewalk with the company seal, it’s required by law. “Before the top or finishing of concrete walks has set, the contractor or person building the walk shall place in such walk in front of each lot or parcel of property a stamp or plate giving the name and address of the contractor or person building the walk and the year in which the work was done,” states section 10-20-515 of the Chicago Municipal Code.
“The ordinance has been on the books for decades,” says Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Scales. “The stamps are almost a historic look back at when these sidewalks were put in.” While modern companies have paved over historic plaques, replacing them with their own, some stamps dating back to the early 20th century have survived.
“It was kind of a forward marketing practice back when service companies like contractors didn’t really do marketing,” says Sloan Watson, marketing director for Bulley & Andrews, one of the city’s largest general contractors. “You’re putting your name on a project and saying you stand behind it.”
Watson once got a serendipitous bit of career advice from a sidewalk plate. “I was walking around deciding between two job offers and I dropped my sunglasses,” she says. “They landed on a plaque for a sidewalk that Bulley & Andrews had done. It was a sign.”