Ask Me

Brickmakers left their mark on Fresno City College

Finger imprints are seen in a brick on a column in the courtyard at Fresno City College’s Old Administration Building on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The imprints are from when workers constructed the building with bricks that weren’t completely set.
Finger imprints are seen in a brick on a column in the courtyard at Fresno City College’s Old Administration Building on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The imprints are from when workers constructed the building with bricks that weren’t completely set.

Q: During our frequent walks in the courtyards of the Old Administration Building at Fresno City College, my wife and I have wondered how the countless fingertip impressions got into the bricks.

Gunnar and Cheryl Jensen, Fresno

A: Fingertip impressions such as those seen in the Old Administration Building courtyard are common in earlier bricks that were made completely by hand. Two other examples of this can be seen at the Boone Hall plantation in Mount Pleasant, S.C., and the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, N.C.

But even after the invention of brickmaking machines, it is likely that wet bricks “were still shepherded along the process by several sets of human hands,” according to the Baltimore Brick by Brick website. “Our best guess is that the fingerprints landed on  bricks after they were molded but before they were fully dried.”

Architect George McDougall, who designed the Old Administration Building, “had decided to use brick and stone in warm shades and of a style reminiscent of the Renaissance architectures built with these materials in Northern Italy and Spain,” according to the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Administration Building was added to the national list in 1974.

Construction of the building began in 1915 and was completed in 1916. Today, a casual search along the building’s courtyard reveals at least 30 fingertip impressions.

The campus was built to originally house the Fresno Normal School, which became Fresno State Teacher’s College in 1921, Fresno State College in 1935 and finally Fresno City College in 1956.

Q: I remember Fresno police Officers Moxley and Gast who taught us about safety at Heaton Elementary School in the 1950s. Can you find out any more about them?

Jim Doyle, Fresno

A: Fresno police Officers Richard LaVerne Moxley, Leo Charles Gast and others presented assemblies on traffic and bicycle safety at several Fresno elementary schools in the 1950s. They also certified crossing guards.

Gast, a 15-year veteran of the Fresno Police Department, was a city ambulance driver when he retired in 1961. Several schools held surprise parties for him as he neared retirement.

Gast died in 1969 at the age of 67. According to his Fresno Bee obituary, he “spoke to thousands of schoolchildren each year about traffic safety and supervised the junior and adult safety patrols. His work was recognized with a National Safety Council award.” He was a lifetime member of the Parent Teacher Association and a member of the Police Officers’ Association.

Moxley died in 2010 at the age of 90. Lester Letson of Clovis, who wrote an entry about Moxley on the Find a Grave website, recalled hearing Moxley at safety talks when he attended Roeding and Wilson elementary schools as a boy in the mid-1960s. According to The Bee, Moxley was still working with the school safety program at least as late as 1970.

“He had a positive impact on many of the youth in Fresno,” wrote Letson, who recalled meeting Moxley again in 2001.

Q: Where did the name Lacjac come from? My grandparents used to own a farm on the northwest corner of Lacjac and South avenues in Fresno County.

Duke Crockett, Clovis

A: Lacjac Avenue – spelled LacJac in some sources – west of Reedley is a combination of the last names of Henry Lachman and Frederick Jacobi. They were among the “prominent wine dealers and vineyardists” who partnered with M. Theo Kearney to create the Fresno Vineyard Co. in the late 1800s, according to the book “History of Fresno County, California.”

According to “A Companion to California Wine,” Lachman and Jacobi operated “one of the most powerful” wine merchant companies in San Francisco in the 1880s. In 1899 they “bought and expanded a winery near Fresno, naming it LacJac.”

Their company was started by Lachman’s father, Samuel, who was born in Germany in 1825. He came to California in 1852 and formed the S. Lachman & Co. wine distribution business in San Francisco in 1864. His son joined the firm, which later became Lachman and Jacobi.

Henry Lachman gained “a reputation as California’s greatest wine-taster,” according to the book. Jacobi served on the board of the California Wine Association in the early 1900s.

The company’s last San Francisco office was on Main Street in 1913. The firm had an office in New Orleans in 1915.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.