In the Press
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July 11, 2018

‘History right under our feet’: Decorative manhole covers are a window on Washington’s past

“Gee,” says Jerry McCoy, bending over a Georgetown driveway for a closer look at something embedded in the concrete. “I guess I’d better photograph this and add it to my binder.”

He pulls out his digital Canon and snaps a shot of the object of his attention: a round metal manhole cover, steps from the Georgetown Neighborhood Library on R Street. In fact, it’s in the library driveway, and it’s a wonder that McCoy has never noticed it before. Because it’s not just any old manhole cover, like the kind you see all over the streets of Washington, waffle-patterned and marked “Pepco” or just “Sewer.” And because McCoy is a special collections librarian in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown branch who happens to be rather invested in unusual manhole covers.

You might say he collects them. You might, if you were feeling fanciful, call him the Georgetown Manhole-Cover Man.
This cover right in his backyard is stamped with the word “Storm” and the name of the manufacturer: Chesapeake Foundries Inc. A delicate lattice pattern plays over the surface.

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