Historic Non-Structural Detail: Ew

by Don Friedman on November 8, 2016

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A church front door with a wrought-iron thing in front of it.

The thing is a boot-scraper. It makes sense that one would want to clean the bottom of one’s shoes before entering a public building like this or private building like a rowhouse. The one in the picture above is hinged. I’m not sure why: it may be to allow the top bar, when dirty, to be kicked over to expose the lower bar for more shoe cleaning, or it may be for some other reason.

The dictionary definition I linked to above talks about mud from unpaved streets, but many, if not most, boot-scrapers still extant in New York were installed after the city paved its streets. Let’s be honest: mud was not the whole problem. It has been estimated that the roughly 150,000 horses on the streets of New York in 1900 left behind 2,500,000 pounds of manure every day. Yeah, the boot-scrapers were to keep “mud” out of buildings.

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