A Field Guide to New York City Manhole Covers

C B(R?) R

C R R or C B R?

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Manhole Mystery on a Manhattan Sidewalk

This inconspicuous cover located in front of the historic Mink building in Manhattanville is something of a cypher. The worn lettering, either CRR or CBR, doesn't suggest any large scale project or agency, but there is no obvious business or functional meaning that comes to mind either. The Mink building was built in 1911 and was the capstone of a large brewery complex that had been on the site since the 1880's. This may or may not account for the slightly tipsy looking central letter on this cover.


The honeycomb pattern has been in use since the 19th century, and the captain's wheel rim (with 7 pegs) was used into the 20th, and was often associated with drains and sewers. The lettering on the cover is unusual; raised and bold -- I have found no other examples on similar covers.


It sure looks like a sewer cover, but exceptions exist, and this could be a large coal hole cover, or associated with the street-level railroads that operated in the neighborhood, or possibly even with refrigeration pipes as seen in the Meatpacking District downtown.


This cover is on the sidewalk along Amsterdam Ave between 127th and 128th Sts

Related Images Follow

Don Burmeister -- Photographs