“Hugs and kisses” on a Murray Hill manhole cover

New York City’s old manhole covers have an artistry all their own. Some feature glass bubbles that looks like jewels in the right light. Others are decorated with stars or similar emblems, and almost all have the name of the designer or foundry on them, advertisements for their work.

But what to make of this manhole cover spotted in front of East 35th Street near Fifth Avenue?

Jordan Wouk, a manhole cover enthusiast, noticed it on the way to the Morgan Library recently. It lacks an identifying name, contains a single starfish-like star, and the Xs and Os decorating the lid were a mystery.

The message I got was “hugs and kisses,” says Mr. Wouk.

It’s a little late to make this a Valentine’s Day post, but I like this interpretation. The cover is sending love to contemporary New Yorkers—and asking us to take notice of this and other hiding-in-plain-sight remnants of an older Gotham.

[Photo © Jordan Wouk]

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10 Responses to ““Hugs and kisses” on a Murray Hill manhole cover”

  1. John Jansen Says:

    your early!

  2. beth Says:


  3. Susan Siskind Says:

    Thanks, Jordan. Never noticed this beautiful design on a street I crossed hundreds of times. remember you from CB8 meetings and nice surprise to see your post here.

  4. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    Delightfully romantic!

  5. countrypaul Says:


  6. alaspooryorick Says:

    he must have known that future residents would need a little affection, as we are so afflicted.

  7. Beth Says:

    Is this in the sidewalk? If so, it might be the cover to a coal chute.

  8. Rob K Says:

    I believe it to be a coal chute cover. See Diana Stuart’s great book ‘Designs Underfoot; The Art of Manhole Covers in NYC’, 2003. On Page 96 she says: ‘There are a number of similar unidentified coal chute covers around the City. Some of them read “XOZ”, some “OZ”, and some “XZ”. She has a picture of a similar manhole with XOXO she located at 915 Fulton Street at Clinton St., north side.

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