Posts Tagged ‘coal holes’

The most beautiful manhole covers in Manhattan

October 15, 2012

This site is a big fan of the 19th century cast-iron covers that dot the city’s streets and sidewalks—covers that once opened into utility holes or coal chutes.

Many survive to this day, some quite decorative and inventive.

But perhaps the loveliest of all are those built with ornamental design and colored vault lights—small bubbles of glass that allowed sunlight into the underground space.

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.

The top one is on Waverly Place and MacDougal Street; the bottom cover, Madison Avenue and 37th Street.

More examples of Jacob Mark’s vault lights can be found here.

A Brooklyn neighborhood’s coal hole covers

August 16, 2012

Coal holes are bunkers beneath the sidewalk in front of a house that originally used coal for heat: Delivery companies would drop a shipment down the hatch, and the coal could go right into the basement and wouldn’t dirty up the home.

You still see them dotting sidewalks all over the city, especially in neighborhoods with lots of beautiful brownstones built in the 19th century.

No surprise, then, that pretty sidewalks of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are filled with decorative examples.

This one was made by Empire Foundry. A Brooklyn Daily Eagle ad from 1854 says they’re located “one block from the Fulton Ferry.”

The John Brooks foundry made this cover on Navy Street, right in the middle of where the Ingersoll Houses are today.

This lid was probably a lot prettier and more colorful back in the day. The address says 5 Worth Street; I wonder if it’s part of the Jacob Mark Sons Foundry at 7 Worth Street.

Even though it was spotted out of the neighborhood a bit on Atlantic Avenue and I think it’s a regular manhole cover, I wanted to include this one, with its wonderful lettering. Castle Bros. apparently paved most of Flatbush.