Manhole Cover Safari

During the pandemic, many families started putting stuffed animals in their front windows to give children out for a stroll something to “hunt for”. But what if you’ve found all the stuffed animals and you’re looking for another distraction for your morning walk? Start looking down!

The sidewalks and streets of Georgetown are covered with a large variety of manhole and other utility covers. They’re easy to ignore, but when you start actually investigating them, you realize that they are a veritable history book. And most interesting are the old sewer covers from over a century ago. The ones from that period have the date they were created stamped into them. It can be a fun diversion to try to find the oldest ones.

This idea came from the Twitter account of the DC Council, which came up with the #olddcmanholecover hashtag. So far it seems the oldest covers are from 1891 (like the one above). See if you can find one!

In the meantime you also come to see the variety of different utilities and agencies that once serviced the neighborhood. You’ll find old names for DC Water and the DC Department of Transportation. You’ll also see telephone manhole covers still sporting the Bell Telephone name.

And you might even find some truly ancient relics. GM found this one at 29th and Q:

GM believes this says:


July 13, 81

Aug, 16, 1862



PATD probably is short for “patented” and the dates appear to relate to the creation of the first water lines to bring the river water right to people’s homes. In fact, advertising a house as having “Potomac Water” was a thing in the 1860s.

It’s not certain that this particular cover is from the 1860s, but it seems likely.

So keep your eyes down! You never know what you’ll find.


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2 responses to “Manhole Cover Safari

  1. Topher

    Ha, of course Jerry beat me to it!

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