Not just historic row houses, but some wonderful old iron work also survives in the Mott Haven East Historic District: manhole covers, building drain covers, and coal hole covers.
Building Drain Covers
These two pieces caught my eye. Set right at the edge of the property line, just inside of the sidewalk, they are rather small. The Dimock & Fink is labeled “5 x 19 1/2,” which looked like it could be the dimensions. They were clearly covers or drains to some kind of utility. I thought they might offer access to a gas line. Another guy on the hike suggested they were property-line markers. My wife suggested vents for coal bins (in which dust and gases might build up).
But Walter Grutchfield’s site identified similar things as building drain covers. So what is a “building drain?” It is the lowest pipe in a household’s outgoing plumbing, the line where all the sinks, tubs, and toilets drain into. Clearly, the household’s “building drain” connects to the city’s sewer line in the street. It seems to me that the city would not want individual households cutting into their common sewer, so the city would provide one, standard-size, fitting for each house, perhaps extending one foot into the property. Again, my surmise is that the city thus took responsibility for that fitting and, of course, the common street sewer line. The householder was responsible for all his own internal plumbing and his building drain, down to that fitting. Presumably the building drain covers photographed here are located at those junctions.
More J.L. Mott Iron Works
I have a real fondness for anything made by Bronx-based J.L. Mott Iron Works. Not much is left on NYC streets. So far, this is the only manhole cover made by J.L. Mott that I have found in the borough. A real find!