What Does the “S” on Certain Chimneys Stand For?

805 Soledad Avenue has an “S” on the chimney. I see this “S” all over San Roque, the Westside, and other places. It seems to be mainly on 1930s houses, many of which lean toward Tudor styles. Is it a builder’s signature? —S.

I tried asking local architectural historians, but they never responded. No matter, Wikipedia has the answer: “An anchor plate, floor plate, or wall washer is a large plate or washer connected to a tie rod or bolt. Anchor plates are used on exterior walls of masonry buildings, for structural reinforcement against lateral bowing. Anchor plates are made of cast iron, sometimes wrought iron or steel, and are often made in a decorative style.”

“These metal fixtures […] can be shaped like letters (especially S’s and X’s), symbols, stars, and other designs,” adds House Digest. “They’re commonly found on the oldest homes in America and were used to offer significant protection from natural disasters.”

And from 99% Invisible: “Star bolts (and other shapes) are a common engineering retrofit, running through the brick and connecting facades to the joists behind the brick to stabilize things. Sometimes, bulged bricks need to be pushed back into place first, depending on the extent of the issue. Rods are then threaded through and held in tension by washers. The surface plates then spread the tension load across multiple bricks. A star shape can do the job well, reaching out in multiple directions at once while also looking intentional in various orientations (whereas squares can look strange when spun in different directions). […] Particularly in Europe, there are older, more sophisticated and stylized shapes as well, often made of cast or wrought iron rather than steel. Like concrete, brick works well in compression but not in tension, so pairing it with metal (which works well in tension) makes a lot of sense.”

Got a question you’d like investigated? Email [email protected] or text 917-209-6473.


Previous Burning Questions:
••• What’s the status of the decommissioning of Rincon Island?
••• What happened to the gas flame on Highway 101?
↓↓↓ What do we know about the proposed apartment complex at 1 Hot Springs Road?
••• What’s the history of this tower on Ortega Ridge?
••• What’s up with these sculptures on a hillside in Summerland?
••• Is there a master plan for the new walking paths in Montecito?
••• Why are the Thousand Steps still wet?
••• What’s happening with Sola Street?
••• Why are trees being cut down above the San Ysidro Ranch?
••• Why is this lot on Milpas Street still vacant?
••• Where else do cruise ships that visit here go?
••• What’s happening with the Pepper Tree Inn?
••• What is this large memorial in Ennisbrook?
••• What’s the large building under construction next to Highway 101?
••• Who bought the former St. Mary’s seminary—and why?
••• What will happen to the SBPD building when the new building is completed?
••• How does the city decide to mark bike lanes?
↓↓↓ What’s the story with this house on W. Cota Street?
••• What are those little houses on Santa Barbara Street?
••• Which Highway 101 exits are getting renamed?
••• Is the Music Academy of the West adding pedestrian gates?
••• Why does the Coast Village Road median look so bad?
••• What’s the point of this light pole near the freeway?
••• Why are the city’s parking lots scanning license plates?
••• What’s inside Paseo Nuevo’s State Street tower?
••• What’s the point of these markings on Laguna Street?
••• Why is there a giant red shoe off Highway 101?
••• Are we no longer allowed on the SBHS baseball field?
••• What does “SBTP” on this post mean?
••• What’s up with the “no e-bike” signs on local trails?
••• Why is Franceschi House in a holding pattern?
••• Why is there a train station inside this State Street storefront?
••• What’s happening with this derelict house in Summerland?
••• Why is there wood on some power lines?
••• Can you explain how sundowner winds work?
••• Why is there a pressure cooker attached to this utility pole?
••• What’s this concrete ramp thing on East Beach?
••• Why does “USA” get written on the street?
••• What are those poles in the ocean near the Ritz-Carlton Bacara?
••• Are people really allowed to set fires in the middle of Montecito?
••• What’s the story with the half-finished lot next to the Montecito Country Mart?


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