Is this the city’s oldest Croton manhole cover?

Manhattan still has several manhole covers that mark the Croton Aqueduct, the 1842 engineering masterpiece that fed fresh water to the 1840s metropolis from a series of gravity-powered pipes and city receiving reservoirs.

Dated 1862, this one hiding in plain sight on the grimy corner of Eighth Avenue and 40th Street is thought to be the oldest in the city. It’s might also be the most southerly one, since the Croton manhole cover once on Jersey Street in Noho has disappeared.

But unless it was removed recently (and that’s certainly possible), an almost identical cover, also dated 1862, lies underfoot in East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park, at First Avenue and 112th Streets.

In the middle of the biggest public health crisis of the 21st century, it’s a fitting time to take a moment and celebrate what the Croton Aqueduct did for New York City: it brought clean drinking water to an unsanitary city where fresh water was hard to find.

Before Croton opened, most residents relied on street corner “tea water” pumps, which were often polluted.

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15 Responses to “Is this the city’s oldest Croton manhole cover?”

  1. ytfnyc Says:

    There used to be one at Manhattan ave and Powers St. in Williamsburg.

  2. Shari L. Says:

    The croton aqueduct system is featured prominently in The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Thanks for posting this info today.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Just sharing some of the amazing artifacts of 19th century New York that still exist in the 21st century city!

  3. petey Says:

    very cool find!

  4. Kevin Says:

    What would ‘D P T’ stand for?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’ve been trying to find out. I think it’s just short for “department,” as in the Croton Aqueduct Department. But I could be wrong.

  5. David H Lippman Says:

    When the Croton Aqueduct was activated, six guys in a boat sailed through it. The boat was called “Croton Maid.” It’s in “The World Beneath the City.”

  6. Susan Miller Says:

    I believe it is at the corner of Flatbush and Sterling Pl in Brooklyn that I have seen manhole covers referring to an upstate reservoir. They might not be as old as these.
    If I still have a picture I’ll forward it.

  7. StickyMangoRice Says:

    A piece of history! Wonderful 🙂

  8. The mystery manhole cover on Central Park West | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The most interesting manhole covers are the ones that tell us who made it and when it was put in place: the name of an ironworks company, the initials of a city department, a date. […]

  9. mikee Says:

    Its official, I can’t find either of the two mentioned here. Perhaps you could be more specific as to their location?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I can’t be any more specific than the locations listed, because my memory is fuzzy about both. But you will see them at Eighth and 40th St. (I believe on the East Side of Eighth) and in the middle of Thomas Jefferson Park on a paved pathway.

      • Mikee Says:

        Thanks for your reply. Ive been following you for years now. So I found the one in Jefferson park no problem on south side of the pool path towards middle of the pool. Note that its date 1866.

        As for 8th Av and 40th Street, no such luck. I am there all the time if you have any other leads.

        Thanks again,


      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        Glad you found the one in Jefferson Park! I’ll try to make it over to 40th and 8th this week and give you a more precise location for that manhole. It is certainly possible that the city got rid of it and replaced it with another one, but I’ll look!

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