A Field Guide to New York City Manhole Covers


Department of Street Improvements

cover image

Of Course!

At the end of the 19th Century a monogram craze of sorts hit the manhole cover world. The stylized and intertwined letters of the issuing departments were meant to convey -- I don't know -- an upper crust sewer? The epitome of lid indecipherability in New York is probably this gem. The D and S are fairly easy, but the jumping jack I may make you a target for ridicule by small boys in the time it takes you to finally see it.


The overall design of rings of nubs is quite common among both commissioned covers and unadorned commercial covers to this day. This rings with monogram design is a direct descendant of one by the Dept of Public Parks, and ancestor of later Bureau of Sewers. Fancy monograms can be seen on covers for the Croton Aqueduct and the Long Island Railroad .


This cover is seated in a limestone base that forms part of a curbside storm drain. Note the lack of any vent holes, meaning it is covering a storm sewer not a sanitary sewer.


This cover is located on the corner of Webster Ave. and E. 236th St. - right at the edge of the old 24th Ward. Similar covers are scattered througout the Bronx.

Related Images Follow

Don Burmeister -- Photographs