Posts Tagged ‘Decorative Boot Scraper NYC’

This Upper East Side school still has boot scrapers

April 20, 2020

It’s hard not to be charmed by New York’s turn of the century schoolhouses—those handsome buildings with oversize windows and proud entryways.

One of my favorites is PS 158 in Yorkville on 77th Street (above in 1920). The cross streets on the school’s facade still say “Avenue A,” the old name for York Avenue. It’s a wonderful anachronism.

But there’s another old New York relic at the school’s side entrances: boot scrapers.

Boot scrapers were a sanitary necessity in the muddy city without paved streets. How else could you remove from your boots the dirt, manure, and garbage found all over New York roads until late in the 19th century?

You can still find boot scrapers on the iron railings on front stoops of 19th century brownstones and townhouses. (At left, a boot scraper on a Morton Street walkup.)

Some are plain and functional, others decorative and unique, like the boot scrapers below on West 67th Street, at a former home for Swiss immigrants.

Though houses and public buildings like churches had (and some still have) boot scrapers, I’ve never seen them at the doors of a city schoolhouse. I don’t know if these boot scrapers as old as the school itself, but it’s hard to imagine administrators installing them in the last half century or so.

If the kids at what’s now called PS 158 Bayard Taylor Elementary School actually use them, it must be the most hygienic school in Manhattan.

[Top photo: NYPL Digital Collection]