Looking up at New York’s buildings isn’t the only way to get a sense of the city’s past.
Cast 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 centuries.
These iron lids serve a utilitarian purpose. But the men who made them at Ironworks across the city imbued them with a sense of pride and craftsmanship.
Jacob Mark created his signature covers with colored glass, which look like glistening jewels. The one at top of the page was discovered in Tribeca.
Charles H. Fox’s Hudson River Ironworks made the manhole cover above, with its lovely decorative stars. It’s in the ground in the West Village, not far from the Ironworks’ headquarters at 369 West 11th Street.
The big star in the center of this next cover must be the signature of John P. Weldon, who plied his trade down on Stone Street, when “New York” was still hyphenated.
This manhole cover made by Emilnick Ironworks is on Vernon Avenue in Long Island City. It certainly has seen better days, but it’s holding its own.
Some especially beautiful covers can be found here.