Manhole covers: clues to an older New York

There’s a lot more variety when it comes to manhole typeface and design than you’d think. And each cover offers a tiny clue to the businesses that made the modern city.

The Weinstock Brothers started out as steel fabricators in 1898. This Gramercy-area manhole is a testament to their work.

It’s still plugging up the street—and the company is also going strong.

The Flatbush Gas Company must have put this manhole cover down in the area known today as Victorian Flatbush around 1900, when farmland south of Prospect Park was suburbanized.

Hmm, it looks a lot like this Brooklyn Edison cover found in Crown Heights.

It’s clear that this lovely spoke-wheel cover found in Manhattan says “DPW [Department of Public Works] Sewer.”

But the year is hard to decipher. Could it really be from 1871?

Though the newest manhole covers on New York streets mostly appear to have “made in India” engraved on them, the city still creates some fun and fanciful decorative ones.

Check out this one on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, with a cute porgy on it.

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8 Responses to “Manhole covers: clues to an older New York”

  1. Andy Sydor Says:

    One of my faves is in the Times Square Area, on Broadway btw 47th and 48th (by the Morgan Stanley Building). It’s a reservoir manhole cover from 1866! Best as I can tell, it’s the oldest visible object in the neighborhood.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks, I’ll take a look! I bet it’s similar to this one, which isn’t quite as old:

  3. Joe R Says:

    Funny coincidence – just this morning I photographed a manhole cover on Jersey Street near old St. Pat’s. It had the words CROTON AQUEDUCT 1866. (Not a discovery, I found out about it on a Forgotten New York site.)

  4. Paul Kalbfleisch Says:

    I also found the Weinstock manhole. It will soon be posted to my site where you can see other amazing designs in NYC as well as other designs from other cities.

  5. Bobbi Mastrangelo Says:

    I share your interest in the history of manhole covers.
    I have been recreating them artistically since 1979.
    Check out my two sculptures of NYC Chimney Covers
    “Grate wishes!”
    Bobbi Mastrangelo

  6. Brian Altonen, MPH, MS Says:

    This matches other examples I am finding in the city of Poughkeepsie, including the year.

  7. Jim Kirk Says:

    There’s a nice DPW in front of the Main Post Office on 8th Avenue.

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