Manhole covers that left their mark on the city

Not everyone would agree that these cast-iron lids qualify as art. But there’s a certain beauty to the design of some 19th century examples still found all over New York.

This cover, spotted in Tribeca, looks like it hasn’t been opened since the neighborhood was the butter and eggs district.

It’s by Jacob Mark, “one of the oldest manufacturers of architectural iron work in the country,” states his 1904 obituary in The New York Times.

J.B. and J.M. Cornell goes all the way back to 1828, though it’s unclear exactly when this Chelsea manhole cover, with its low-key ornamental touches, was made.

Stars were a popular motif on manhole covers, like this one, found on West 145th Street. The McDougall and Potter foundry must have been quite an operation on far West 55th Street back in the day.

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4 Responses to “Manhole covers that left their mark on the city”

  1. Out Walking the Dog Says:

    I adore manhole covers. Back around 1970 when I was a senior in high school, an amazing artist pottery/jewelry-making teacher, Mrs. Tam, told us to go out into the city and LOOK. Specifically she told us to look at wrought iron fire escapes & gates and, you guessed it, manhole covers. We had to sketch them, then use the designs as inspiration for own creations. A great lesson in how to freshly see what is right in front of you. Thank you, Mrs. Tam!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    They are beautiful and inspirational, most of them anyway. Every few months I spot enough new ones to work them into a post.

  3. The most beautiful manhole covers in Manhattan « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Jacob Mark (later Jacob Mark Sons) was a leading manufacturer of vault lights and architectural iron work in the late 1800s. His whimsical covers—patented in 1870—with their six-sided stars still glitter a little when the sun catches the glass the right way. […]

  4. Manhole covers that left their mark on the city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] your eyes down on the sidewalk and street, and you’ll start seeing an incredible variety of manhole covers—many from the 19th and early 20th […]

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