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Articles By: michelle young

Michelle is the founder of Untapped Cities. Michelle can usually be found in New York (where she grew up), Paris, backpacking in South America or Southeast Asia, or in-transit between. She’s traveled to 40+ countries, has an obsession with buses and shoots with a Canon SLR camera. She is an author of 100 Ways to Make History, published by the New York Public Library and is currently working on a book on the history of Broadway for Arcadia. She holds a masters in urban planning from Columbia University, where she is an adjunct professor, a B.A. from Harvard in the History of Art & Architecture, and is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. Follow her on Twitter @untappedmich.


One time we wrote about all the manholes inside Westminster Abbey, London (amazingly, there are over 50). New York City also has an amazing array of manholes and after our recent discovery of a Flickr group dedicated to the city’s manholes, we thought we’d highlight some of the most unique ones. Manhole covers were once a part of a town’s civic pride, with foundries and local authorities placing their stamp on the cast-iron covers. Covers were a reflection of the progress made through the industrial revolution and the new provision of services that accompanied increasing urbanization. Many of the manholes specify Con Edison or Bell, a reflection of the move to put the city’s electrical wires underground after the great blizzard of 1888.

Oldest Manhole Cover in NYC

Croton Aqueduct Manhole-Jersey Street-NYC-1866Image by matvonthies

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Ansonia-Hotel-Upper West Side

It’s hard to imagine today that people had to be lured to settle on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but such was the case at the turn of the 20th century when the first New York City subway line opened. The Interborough Rapid Transit Line (IRT) started at City Hall, with the most epic of subway stations (now closed off to the public except on official Transit Museum tours). The Astors and other enterprising investors owned the land uptown, purchased in a speculative property boom. Now, the question was how to brand the area.

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The Freemasons have long been a mysterious force in both American and European history. The group in New York City however has become more open to inquisitive eyes in the last decade, reaching out for new members and becoming more active in community service. If you are looking for a little bit of Freemasonry in your explorations, there are some interesting locations you can visit in the city.

1. Grand Lodge of Masons

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Pure Loyalty Electronic Storage Mobile Truck-Schools-NYC

We all know about food trucks. We’ve also reported on some more unique mobile trucks in New York City, like one for sharpening knives, one for checking paternity called “Who’s Your Daddy?” and a dentistry center. But yesterday, we came across a mobile truck that stores your electronic devices. Teens were lining up to collect, and turns out these mobile trucks are part of a booming business that only exists in New York–because cell phones and other devices–are banned from all New York City public schools.

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The fact of life here in New York City is such that if you want buildings that can “scrape” the sky, you’ll need those without a fear of heights to build them and maintain them. Lucky for us sitting at our desks, looking out at the city’s skyscrapers, there are equally intrepid photographers you documented the workers on the early tall buildings and bridges in New York City. Without further ado photos from up top on the Waldorf-Astoria, Woolworth Building, Empire State Building, RCA Building, Brooklyn Bridge and more.

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A note from Untapped Cities founder, Michelle Young: 

9/11 happened on the first day of registration my sophomore year in college. I was sleeping and I remember hearing bounding footsteps in the hallway of our thinly-walled dorms at Harvard and someone saying that the World Trade Center had fallen. It seemed like something out of a crazy dream, so I kept on sleeping. I woke up to instant messages (remember those on AOL?) from New York, where I’m from. Friends at Columbia University had seen the whole thing happen from their skyscraper dorms in Morningside Heights. 

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