By Amy O’Hair
Original post about Anton Fazekas and his little invention: The little sculpture affixed to your house: Anton Fazekas and the making of a midcentury San Francisco sensation. All things Fazekas can be found linked on this page.
My post in July 2020 about Anton Fazekas and his house-number sensation turned out to be a minor sensation itself, bringing visitors to this blog in great numbers. Thank you for all the tweets, Reddit posts, and other links that spread the word. Attention to this minute part of the domestic built environment seems to have been a little anodyne in an age of upheaval.
In this follow-up post there are more photos, many from readers, taken in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities. I show some rehabilitated units, and some rare and odd finds. Also, I address the pressing issue of where to get replacement bulbs and numbers, with a link for the technical info you need to replace a bulb. And we get a peek at a 3D printed reproduction of a Fazekas.
If you have additional information, tips for renovation, or images to share, please write me. In particular, if you have a resource for unattached refurbished Fazekases for sale, please let me know.
Here are the restoration results for one Miraloma Park resident, when he set about improving his dilapidated house number unit.
A few other photos of rehabilitations, from readers or noticed during my walks:
There have been a notable number of renovations that entailed highlighting the distinctive hexagonal accent bosses on the Classic model.
Some rehabilitations are more successful than others–a couple that miss the mark:
This one has been repainted with glow-in-the-dark paint.
Here is one that had some careful work done, but some long time ago.
This renovator decided to reverse black and white on the digits, with a fairly careful hand.
Here the owner has employed a unique color scheme:
Don’t Own a Fazekas? 3D Print It!
An enterprising person has now 3D-printed a Deco model themselves, as seen on Twitter:
— Gem Spear (@oneirodynia) November 12, 2020
The reproduction ‘deco’ unit is now installed with its LED light. Gem Spear @oneirodynia shared this photo:
If you are looking to have your own printed, here is a start on the process; linked below are the patent documents for Fazekas’s three models of illuminated house numbers:
- “Classic” https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/df/78/26/65ed2f11f7fe50/USD87911.pdf [Note: this ‘Classic ‘ model is the four-digit one.]
- “Slimline” https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/d2/99/38/50a39ef23170de/USD87912.pdf
- “Deco” https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/1b/ba/bf/b9adf057278079/USD84886.pdf
This item is a novelty, a Fazekas unit with cut-out numerals, apparently designed to have a light shining through from behind, instead of under the hood–therefore it dispenses with the hood. I have seen this only with the “Deco” design as its basis.
This unusual find shows a small round seal of sorts, replacing the lower hexagonal boss, which says “CERTIFIED ADEQUATE WIRING.”
Here is a ‘Slimline’ model, with a companion unlighted unit below it, to accommodate a second number. Apparently the light in the top unit was to light both house numbers.
Below are a few examples of the two types of fairly rare un-illuminated Fazekas house-number units, one with a shallow peak at the top, and the other plain (126), like the second unlighted unit shown above, but this time used alone.
Apparently Fazekas also offered two variations on the standard white-on-black numerals. I have found several examples of black-on-white digits. Although it is not uncommon to find units where stick-on numerals have been put onto the original Fazekas numbers, I believe these below to be original Fazekas-made numbers–they are of the same enameled metal at the standard number tiles.
Also I have occasionally found italic digits, which appear to have been a later offering, turning up on 1950s houses. To fit onto the same dimensions of the number-tile, the italicized digit must be slightly narrower.
Here the builder has mixed the italic digits 4 and 7 with the standard ones, to no good effect:
Apparently there was a range of available spacers, such as half-width, two-third-width, and quarter-width. Given that there were 4-space and 5-space units, and addresses ranging from 1 to 4 digits, there were a lot of combinations needed. This example from Monterey Boulevard, below, with the 5-space Classic unit, shows how two different combination options created different displays. Top unit has two whole-size spacers used at the ends, and bottom unit has four half-size spacers used between each digit.
No real excuse for these unfortunate minor spacing disasters, except I suppose because the builder or installer just happened not to have the right combination on hand.
Which Way Up
This unit was installed upside down (below). The best story I can think up for this is that when the house was built in 1937, Fazekas house-number units were very new on the scene, and the builder may simply have never seen what they were supposed to look like.
I thought this example was singular, but here is another one found in San Francisco:
Creative Fazekas Repurposing
Here some metal work accents a unit.
This mural makes excellent use of an old Fazekas unit.
Looking to replace the bulb in your Fazekas? This page is a wealth of useful technical information.
A few householders have got under the hood of their units up to find that the bulb socket is rusted out or corroded. But often it is not, and it can be replaced, bringing back the original lighting feature, still very effective at night.
One reader found an LED bulb to fit, and recommended it, results shown below.
This little bayonet-type bulb comes in both cool white and warm white, although for those of us who enjoy the irreplaceable glow of a true incandescent, the LED bulb doesn’t quite recreate the original look.
This owner, perhaps wanting more illumination, welded on an extension to the hood on a Classic model, giving the room for a larger light bulb:
If your number tiles are rusted, there is a resource for replacements. A Berkeley salvage place is giving away FREE replacement numbers (as of 11 Nov 2020). They mostly have numbers 1-5, and I don’t know about spacers. Ohmega Salvage, 2400 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, 510-204-0767.
The Door Grille Question
Fazekas’s company, American Art Metal Works, made a great variety of hardware for houses, including door grilles, which are also known as ‘speakeasys’. These little units fitted into the door at eye level, with a decorative grill on the front and a little door on the inside. The front also usually included a door knocker built in. To see a visitor, the resident could open the little door, peer through the grill. There are a great many of them on midcentury San Francisco houses, included when the houses were built.
Fazekas designed and manufactured these door grilles, but identifying which of the many styles seen on doors can be attributed to him is difficult. One reader sent this brilliant find, which because of resemblance to a similar model he patented–and to the illuminated house number units–can definitely be marked as a Fazekas. Interesting bas-relief work on the inside door–old-world peasant girl, perhaps on her way back from market. Maybe it reminded Anton of his Hungarian past.
Many people have written to ask if their door grilles are Fazekas-made, but I don’t have the resources to definitively pronounce which are and which aren’t. So I present these photos, which may or may not be Fazekas’s work. One was installed in a new door recently, but upside-down! If you have information to share with me about these, please write me.
This item recently turned up on EBay. It is obviously from the workshop of American Art Metal Works, which is stamped on a tab of metal at the bottom; and it resembles the styling of the classic illuminated house number unit, with hex bosses and stippling. But its original function is entirely mysterious.
Thanks for all the mail.
If you haven’t already, please read the original post about Anton Fazekas and his little invention: The little sculpture affixed to your house: Anton Fazekas and the making of a midcentury San Francisco sensation. Also new additional photos found here.
For sharing their Fazekas experiences and photos with me, my sincerest thanks go out to @VulcanStairway @MarkPritchard, Kathleen Laderman, Larry Roberts, John Vallelunga, Leo McCardle, Alan Johnson, Ken Mendonca, Garrett Haze, William Cheung, Deborah Sherwood, Barbara Hughes, Robert Dobrin, and Henrik Flodell.