Московские Зарисовки


Part 1. The early years (before World War II)

The purpose of this handmade encyclopedia is to present and describe the history of manhole covers in the city of Moscow and its surroundings. It is a moderately shortened version of the original Russian-language page, with some unnecessary addresses and other speculations thrown out in favor of more basic information. Sorry for my less-than-perfect grammar.

Brief background of Telephone covers

The underground cable telephone network in Moscow, which came to operation in 1902, is of Scandinavian origin.
In 1883, a Swedish engineer by the name of Henrik Cedergren founded Stockholms Allmänna Telefon AB (SAT), the private company for the development of telephone networks. They worked in close cooperation with L.M.Eriksson's company, which produced telephone sets (founded in 1876 by Lars Magnus Eriksson as a repair workshop for telegraph equipment).

In 1901, the 20-year concession term for the operation of the Moscow Urban Telephone Network was over (the first contract with the Bell Telephone Company was concluded on November 1, 1881, and the network itself was opened on July 13, 1882). Because of the high subscription fees the number of subscribers barely reached three thousand during the entire period of Bell's contract in Moscow. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs was not satisfied and refused to extend the concession, so on February 25, 1900, the Moscow telephone network was temporarily transferred under the ownership of the Russian government and they decided to offer it back to another private company for re-equipment and further development.

By autumn of 1900, auctions were held, according to which the one who offers lowest monthly fee should win. Each of the parties provided a sealed envelope which contained a statement indicating proposed annual fee. The participants consisted of the Western Electric Company from Chicago, the Moscow City Duma and the Swedish-Danish-Russian Telephone Joint Stock Company (SDR), the latter eventually offering the lowest price of 79 rubles, thus receiving the right to operate the Moscow network with 2860 telephone points for 18 years.

The Swedish-Danish-Russian JSC (Svensk-Dansk-Ryska telefonaktiebolaget), backed by fixed capital of 1.44 mln krones, was founded on November 5, 1900 in Stockholm and headed by H.Cedergren, the creator and head of "SAT". The SDR's board of directors resided in Stockholm, while the Moscow office was in Kuznetsky Most Street. On July 6, 1902, the company was allowed to operate in Russia (activities officially started on December 3). First of all, they started - in the same year - to reconstruct the network and lay underground cables instead of obsolete air transmission lines. On July 8, construction of a multi-storey telephone exchange building started in Milyutinsky Lane: the design of this building, unique for that time, was performed by L.M.Erickson, taking into account the experience of a similar construction in Stockholm. The equipment was manufactured at the Stockholm plant. The first stage with a 12,000 phone numbers capacity was completed in 1904, and the exchange was put into full operation on November 12.

In the late 1890's, by the Government of Sweden's decree, the state network "Rikstelefon" ("National Telephone") was established. The state-owned Kungliga Telegrafverket ("Royal Telegraph Agency") acquired a number of private telecom operators almost in every Swedish city except for Stockholm, where most of subscribers were associated with Stockholms Allmänna Telefon (SAT). These two networks did not interact and had no connection with each other until Telegrafverket finally acquired SAT's Stockholm network in 1918 and incorporated it into the state network, so telephone communication in Sweden became state monopoly for many decades. In the same year, SAT merged with LM Ericsson, both hit hard by the Russian Revolution. SAT lost their still-operated Russian networks, and Ericsson their plant in St. Petersburg, all seized and nationalized by the Soviets.

As for the Kungliga Telegrafverket company, it was renamed "Televerket" in 1953. In the 1990's, when its monopoly in communication industry was already largely undermined, it was renamed to Telia (in 2002-2017 - Telia Sonera) and remains the largest phone operator in Scandinavia. The Swedish company Ericsson also lives as a manufacturer of communication equipment and is better known for its former joint venture with Sony for the production of cell phones (Sony Ericsson).


In the year of 1902, construction of an underground "telephone canalisation" began in six main directions from the central telephone exchange. The cables were put through concrete collectors, which had been laid mainly under the carriageways. For maintenance access, two kinds of covers were designed: first type large, dual and rectangular, others smaller and round-shaped. On the covers, the Swedish-Danish-Russian society (SDR) logo was engraved, which in turn was the literal imprint of the Stockholms Allmänna Telefon emblem, depicting the first Bell's handset with erupting lightnings, surrounded by a twelve-pointed star.
The hatches (at least majority of them, or maybe all) were cast at the mechanical and iron foundry "Perenud", founded in 1862 by two Swiss citizens known in Russia by the names of Carl Perenud and Adolf Perle. The plant manufactured various railway equipment: railroad switches, transfer mechanisms, crosses, lamps, etc. In late 1923 it was renamed "Krasny Put" ("Red Way") and handed to the Moscow-Kazan railway, and later belonged to the Ministry of Railways.

1. The typical double-hatch of the Swedish-Danish-Russian society, perfectly preserved in a nondescript corner behind Slavyanskaya Square. All square covers are marked with a single date: 1902. In April 2016, the cover was no more and only a hole remained, covered with metal sheet: whether some evil collectors picked it up, or it was simply dumped by service works, we'll probably never know. This was a grievous loss indeed, since there're no more such clean covers available in the city, and even less with the mark of the plant "Perenud". But a couple of half-erased ones can still be seen elsewhere.
2. The cover exposed in the corporate museum of the history of MGTS (Zorge Street). This one has the "Perenud" brand. Similar hatch was once spotted on the territory of the former gas plant "Arma" before the beginning of its reconstruction (now there is nothing left).
3. A heavily worn double-hatch was preserved on Elektrozavodskaya Street. It would seem that, despite the deterioration, there should be some traces of letters left, but none are visible. Perhaps, there were no inscriptions originally.
(click a photo to enlarge in a lightbox)

1. A round-shaped SDR manhole in Lyalin Lane, which was originally known to general public since it lies in busy place and its photo can be found on many thematic websites. Unlike the rectangular covers, these were marked with 1901, the very year when the SDR was founded. Although this one cover seems to be particularly prepared and brought from elsewhere: original small ears cut off and two new ones attached, so it better fits the non-native clip.
2. Another round hatch miraculously preserved in the alleys near Baumanskaya street.
3. This one was in the Boulevard Ring, lost to the thorough renovation of the place.
The SDR cover is almost extinct in the wild: by 2021, only one round cover remains and no rectangulars left at all.

A small reference:
In Riga, where SAT was also engaged in cable network construction in 1900, they used a cover drawing similar to Moscow's, although the shape was square. But only during Soviet era this picture with handset-and-lightnings spread across the whole country and became familiar to everyone - thanks to the People's Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs (later the People's Commissariat of Communications) which decided to leave the emblem of its predecessor, so it endured until 1953.

It's also worth noting that the same design was used on older Polish manholes, which is small wonder, since the network operator, Polska Akcyjna Spółka Telefoniczna, was directly founded (in 1922) out of the Polish subsidiary of the H.Cedergren company. They were called to enhance telephone networks in Warsaw in 1901, just like in Moscow.

Here is an example from Kiev, where the "Government telephone" covers contained another drawing, borrowed directly from abroad - namely the Rikstelefon covers, some of which still serve in the historical districts of Stockholm. Two crossed Bell's handset sticks with lightnings - as seen in this photo, the design was repeated almost verbatim, only the royal crown was removed.

Other covers of Rikstelefon, even more often, have a star with eight lightnings. It isn't known how exactly this design was adopted in our country, but there could be ways: LM Ericsson built telephone networks, besides Moscow, Riga and Kiev, in Kharkov (1896), Rostov (1897), Kazan and Tiflis (1900). In other cities, such as Saratov and Samara, an underground telephone was also developed before the revolution. Therefore there was enough possibility for the star-and-lightning design to penetrate into Russian telephone symbolics, and the Soviet departments later had only to keep the emblem. In some regions it was used profusely, but not in Moscow, for obvious reasons. Photo examples: the original hatch in Stockholm and its descendants in different cities of the USSR.

NKPT Telephone (1920's - 1932)

After the October Revolution and establishment of the Soviet authority, in November 1917 there was created the People's Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs (NKPT of the RSFSR, since 1923 - of the USSR), based on the former Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. The manhole cover picture underwent minor changes - the SDR logo was already familiar and recognizable, firmly associated with the telephone, so why invent the wheel? It's just that the image was usually made engraved (rather than salient), and the name was understandably changed to "Telefon NKPT", i.e. "NKPT telephone". For many future years, the rimmed base holder and six "ears" were the telltale signs of the telephone-kind manholes.

1, 2. Standard hatches of those times, reading "ТЕЛЕФОН НКПТ". They are worn out, but still serve.
3. Several times, this variation with 10 rays instead of 12 was found in Moscow. The star is pictured by single line (rather than double), and the handset design differs as well.
4. The only one known (in Moscow) pre-war telephone cover with a date specified - 1928. It was located at the intersection of 9 Rota Street and Kovylinsky Lane and was replaced in 2016. After all, these things aren't commonly regarded as relics but as old garbage. In other cities, date-holding covers were also found - 1927 (Rostov-on-Don), 1928 (Ekaterinburg), 1929 (Kharkov).

NKPT Square Covers

As it was before the revolution, during the first decades of Soviet authority not only round manholes were in service, but rectangular ones as well. One of the variants of the 1920's is a large double-door hatch, originating from the corresponding rectangular cover of the Swedish-Danish-Russian joint-stock society, engraved with not only the Bell's "magic wand" and lightnings, but also with hammer and sickle. It was encountered in Smolensk, Kiev, Donetsk, Bryansk and other major cities, but in Moscow such a double-frame hatch was not preserved. But still there are a few single-cover NKPT hatches of more modest proportions.

1. One of the typical Moscow NKPT rectangles on Bolshaya Semenovskaya street. Surely there were much more around the city, but the replacements did their job. This one was also replaced in 2017.
2. Two rectangles on Rusakovskaya Street are much better preserved for they are located beyond reach of passers-by feet, allowing us to watch upon the revolutionary design of the late 1920's in every detail. See also the closer look.
3. Alternative square cover on Vorontsovskaya Street - with a completely different, simplified design, but already (or yet?) without Soviet symbols. The only one known.
4. The huge barrel-shaped manhole cover near the former Gostorg building (constructed in 1927) on Myasnitskaya Street. No other covers like this were ever found. The engraving is badly worn out, but one can still guess there was enough room for the sickle & hammer combo. In 2017, the cover was destroyed by the street reconstruction campaign. Yet it was preserved as an exhibit near the Moscow Museum of Telephone.

NKS Telephone (1932-1946)

In 1932, NKPT was transformed into the People's Commissariat of Communications (NKS), which existed until 1946 and had left its mark on thousands of manhole covers: no wonder, as telephone networks had been actively created through the entire vast country. And thanks to the fact that the pre-revolutionary cover drawing was adopted as the all-Union standard, we can still see it in significant numbers around the streets. After all, this picture is more pleasing to one's eye than bland official markings of rusty modern covers. The picture most often found in Moscow is the already familiar version of the ten-beam star and a relief-convex pattern in the center. Sometimes there are twelve rays, less often the star is replaced with a checkered frame (see below). The manufacturer's mark and date of issue were placed at the underside (an unholy tradition which has survived even today).

1, 2. Standard design of a NKS telephone cover that could be found in almost every city of the former USSR.
3. Another kind with thicker font and double star outline (similar to its ancestor, the NKPT cover), which lies near the fire tower in Sokolniki.
4. A version from Kislovodsk.

NKS Covers with Checkered Pattern

The "wafer cell" design is sporadically found on NKS manholes besides the usual stellate pattern. Most likely, this checkered pattern is just the trademark sign of a specific (although unknown) manufacturing plant. Note the dots in the abbreviation (Н.К.С.): according to new language rules they had to be abolished since 1935, but still had been used on some covers in later years. The image of the Bell's converter in the center is also pictured a bit differently. There is an assumption made in the web (on the site about the manholes of Donetsk) that these covers were made by the KIM artel from Mushketovo St. of Donbass. Which is plausible, but not supported. Some of these things, if not all, were made by the foundry in Akhtyrka (later known as plant №11 and one of the main producers of telephone covers).

1. The most central of these square-patterned covers lies right under the St. Basil's Cathedral, in the center of Moscow. Park Sokolniki (and the same-named district as a whole) is a preferred habitat for several of them as well.
2. In the courtyard of the museum on Delegatskaya Street. Six ear-holes and three delicate "ears" are clearly visible here.
3. Among the former factory buildings in Kutuzovsky Prospekt, constructed in mid 1930's.
4. Rare specific pre-war cover with checkered pattern and a certain variety of lightning arrows, labeled "ВОЕНЭНЕРГОСТРОЙ СКУ РККА" ("Voenenergostroy SKU RKKA"), which roughly translates as the "Military Energetic Construction trust of the Housing Construction Administration of the Red Army (RKKA)". This trust, concerned with electric works, is mentioned in the documents of 1937-1941. The only cover in Moscow was promtly gone as soon as its whereabouts became known.

Unmarked Telephone

1-3. Sometimes, several types of simplified covers, without words and labels, can be found. The star pattern is not present either, and nobody knows why they were produced in such a manner. Most likely, it's during the 1950's, when old designs and affiliations have been changing, but not yet in full. Less likely variants include the years of war, when there was no time for excess decoration, and the dark period after 1917, when names and affiliations kept changing also - until the All-Union Office (NKPT) was established in 1923.
4. Old telephone cover encountered in Nizhny Novgorod.

Barrel-shaped NKS Covers

During the period of NKS's authority, beside the regular round-shaped manholes, there also was a certain variety of barrel-shaped maintenance covers used both in the capital and throughout the whole country. Rather small in size (mostly 45x60 cm), they were either horizontal, marked with "ТЕЛЕФОН НКС" ("NKS Telephone"), or vertical without any inscriptions (but clearly from the same stock). These covers, originating from the 1930's and early 1940's, were found in the same areas as their round counterparts, including bigger towns of Moscow Oblast (for example, Podolsk).

The first two are from Moscow, the 3rd and 4th are found in Nizhny Novgorod and seem exclusive for that city.

Telephone Markers

Sometimes (but quite rarely nowadays) round-shaped telephone markers are found near old electric distribution cabinets. They originate from pre-revolutionary times, when the SDR logo was pictured on them. But such old markers are all gone. During earlier Soviet years, the word "TELEPHONE" was written around in circle, below it - "PLANT №11 NKS Akhtyrka", and in the center - the Bell's handset. The mechanical plant and foundry №11 is located in the Ukrainian town of Akhtyrka. Formed in 1925, it was the main creator of telephone manholes in USSR before the war. Postwar markers (from the 50's, pictured near) had another inscription around them: "Ministry of Communications of the USSR", at the bottom - "UPP" ("УПП", which stands for "Authority of Industrial Enterprises"), and in the center - the inscription "Plant №11" with handset receiver and a wrench. This name was used by the foundry until mid 1960's, then it was renamed.

The Ministry of Communications Cover (1946-1953)

In 1946, all the People's Commissariats were converted into Ministries, and so did the abbreviations on manholes (and pretty much everywhere). But the prominent design in the middle of a phone cover remained intact for the next 7 years, only the inscription was changed accordingly to "ТЕЛЕФОН МС" ("Telefon M.S."). The standard lifespan of the Ministry of Communications telephone cover started in 1946 and ended in 1953.
There are also several very rare design types originating from earlier predecessors - the Ministry of Communication's emblem in a rhombus, a star with lightnings (mentioned above) or different combinations of both, not found in Moscow.
In 1953, the Temporary Specifications were introduced, which radically changed the appearance of telephone covers and were followed in 1958 by the first GOST on these manholes, and so the classic epoch of the "Bell's handset" was over (what happened next, see on the second page).

More design variations

Several of the phone cover variants stand out of the common picture:
1. Just "Telephone" - common in some cities, but not in Moscow.
2. The cover from Sokolniki district with greatly altered picture and the abbreviation "МСС" ("MSS"), which possibly means "Mossvyazstroy" - the networks construction trust active in the 1950's.
3. The town of Fryazino near Moscow has the peculiar manhole with the word "КАБЕЛЬ" ("Cable") replacing "NKS".
4. The ultimate specimen from Kislovodsk: neither any words, nor even the lightnings, only the awkward stump.

1. Smooth surface and plain outer ring.
2. With a star, found in Kaluga and Tula.
3. Pre-war "T" cover found only in one district of Moscow.
4. The bulky slab with "TELEPHONE" and a lightning, found in late 1950's districts of Moscow.

See the second page for newer telephone covers.

The Ministry of Railways Cover

The People's Commissariat of Railways, or NKPS ("НКПС", 1917-1946) was at large with communications. Since 1918, the NKPS had its own telegraph (Central Communication Station), which was developed and expanded over the years. In 1932 an automatic telephone exchange with capacity of 2000 numbers was put into operation. The same year is marked on most of their covers - they are far less common than the "civil" ones from the NKS, but still can be found in old streets and near departmental buildings. The picture upon them shows an axe and an anchor-like object (a grapple, really) crossed, forming the distinctive sign of railway services, introduced as far as the beginning of the XIX century, used on service uniforms and existed until the 1930's (then replaced with the star-and-hatchets emblem). The dots in "U.S.S.R." also indirectly point at the pre-war date of production, as they were abolished soon after.

1. Standard barrel-shaped NKPS cover with the grappler-axe, anchor, Soviet star and an inscription indiciating an unfamiliar foundry: "E.T.R.Z. N.-Dneprovsk, 1932". This type of cover have even popped up on several English websites (and there are not many altogether). Well, it has style.
2. A round hatch is much less common. This one has no factory marks on its surface. One of these covers is exposed in the museum of the Moscow railway, and another one was found in Tula without any points in the abbreviation.
3. The variation with the foundry marking and the same date as before: 1932.
4. Vertical hatch is even less common. It's known only in one place of Moscow.

The Ministry of Railways (MPS) was established out of the corresponding People's Commissariat in 1946. Covers bearing their emblem are extremely rare, depicting a logo with two lightning arrows in a rhombus, and the shape is familiar barrel. There are also round covers in existence, but only one of them was found in Moscow, and not even in the historical center, but in the former city of Kuntsevo, which became part of Moscow in 1960.

1. The best-preserved hatch on Nizhnyaya Radischevskaya Street. Extinct now, and none better are known.
2. On Krasnoprudnaya Street the similar hatch was turned into a step at the entrance door. The neighboring entrances of this house have old NKPS hatches with the anchor-and-axe logo.
3. Round-shape cover "MPS Telephone" in Kuntsevo - among the buildings of the 1950's.


Historical Moscow Sewerage (Canalisation) System

The construction of the first Moscow sewer system was approved by City Duma in February 1892. Before that, all waste had to be carried off by honeywagons, which was rather unconvenient. New project, developed by a group of engineers, proposed two different flow systems: rainwater drain (directed to open basins) and a sewer for household and industrial wastewater. The implementation began in September 1893 and the first section of Moscow sewer came into operation in July 1898, consisting of 262-km long system, the main pumping station and Lublinsky irrigation fields (Lublinsky Aeration Station since 1939, now extinct and built over by an urban district). This structure served 219 households and processed about 5.4 thousand cbm of sewage per day.
The rainwater (storm drain) and wastewater (sewer) systems remain separated to this day, operated by different state enterprises. In the first years, however, they tended to use common type of manholes: the four-sectioned cover modeled after the similar German design, unofficially named "menazhnitsa" (i.e. "compartment plate") for their visage. In Germany, they are often regarded as "classic" type. Usually there is a small place at the central intersection, marked with the letters "GK" ("ГК", earliest ones also with dots), which is the abbreviation of "Gorodskaya kanalizatsiya", i.e. urban sewerage. In the historical districts of Moscow and any sensible town, they are still found in large numbers, being the most abundant pre-war design of manhole, used both before and after the revolution. Neither water supply nor telephone (let alone other things) used such a design in Moscow. In St.Petersburg it had slightly expanded role, though.

Other Compartment-plate Covers

A plausible version exists regarding their design: so the transport of that time - that is, the horse - wouldn't slide over bare metal. The same applies for citizens' feet. The notches were to be filled with wooden cutouts or asphalt, and everything must've been working the best way possible. In the 1912 book by Y.Z.Zvyaginsky named "House sewerage, its construction and operation" it is addressed directly: "The top cover is filled with wooden liners, which soften thumping, for example, of hooves, and thereby protect the cover from spoilage. So it isn't slippery and doesn't pose danger to fall". Additionally, the bluprints for maintenance shafts of the first Moscow sewer show this very design, even the wooden cutouts are pictured. And the cover diameter equals 64 cm. They were produced by various (but unnamed) manufacturers.
In Germany, a whole range of old-fashioned manholes with similar design has survived, and the evolved cutout device has been actively used throughout Europe. Only the slots are never bare, they are always filled with asphalt, concrete or paving stones (sometimes you won't even suspect the cover is hollow). Russian cities, however, are different and no attention is paid whatsoever to such trivial details. As you can see below, the recesses are usually left empty, clogged with casual dirt, sand or garbage. Compartments plate covers ("menazhnitsa" or "classic design") were used for a long time during the first decades of Soviet power, while horse traction didn't completely disappear and cars weren't everywhere yet. At least, there is a lot of such covers in the center of Moscow, in the Constructivism blocks of the twenties, then they decrease among the buildings of the 1930's, and almost never come near the post-war buildings of the late 1940's, with a few exceptions - since the 1947 GOST standard practically killed this type.

1. A cover with clearly visible dots in the abbreviation. Dots were used in earliest designs, but with different rim.
2. In Krutitskoe Podvorye ("Krutitsy") one of the sewer covers has slightly gothic look: convex letters without serifs, large cuttings along the rim, and decently preserved after all.
3. On the site of the Resurrection Church in Kadashi. See the empty sections? Now you know what country you're in.
4. The underside and base-ring of a discarded manhole.

1. A menazhnitsa (well, it sounds awkward in English) signed "Mosoblzhilsoyuz" (even more awkward) from Lesteva Street. Strongly trampled, but the rest are even worse. The organization with such a gnarly name was the Moscow Regional Union of Housing and Construction Cooperative Associations, first mentioned in 1930. They developed projects for residential buildings, did construction works and supplied materials.
2. In Novodevichiy Convent.
3. In the territory of the former Moscow gas plant "Arma", preserved after total reconstruction.
4. In the territory of the Veterinary Academy there are many compartment plates at the pre-war buildings and dorms. This form, with thicker central pad and without inscriptions, was quite popular before the war.

1. Unusual solar contour, does it mean the cover's of pre-revolutionary origin?
2. Another one with ornamentation at the former Soyuz plant in Luzhniki.
3. The regular Soviet cover with "whiskers" carved for drainage.
4. Quite rare six-section wheel-like compartment cover.

2. Impressive squared base in the courtyard of the Institute of Philosophy near metro st. Kropotkinskaya. Our answer to the classic German manhole.
3. The same design of bare cover within the holder in a courtyard of Bolshoy Znamensky Lane, 2.
3. In the "Budenovsky poselok" - the Constructivist quarter in the east of Moscow.
4. A part of courtyard arrangement in the historical MPEI campus on Energeticheskaya Street. The buildings around were built in 1929-1930.

1. "Naked" cover all above ground. The whole anatomy in sight, plus a cat retreating from rain.
2. Khokhlovsky Lane - near the church.
3. Somewhat larger than its siblings, was found several times near the 1950's houses, and at VDNKh. So we assume it's not only post-war, but also post-GOST, an oddity which should not be.
4. Weird six-ribbed cover lies near the building of 1959. In fact, the cover is just flipped upside down.

M.C.B. Sewerage (1910's)

In the beginning of the 1910's, the Moscow City Board was expanding the still rather modest sewage network. This second stage of construction introduced new aeration fields in Lyubertsy, thus enhancing procession capacity, and a set of new manholes was laid. The Moscow City Board ceased to exist after the October Revolution in 1917. Unlike regular sewage covers pictured above, their covers had empty center, but with the reference to M.C.B. around the edge ("Moskovskaya Gorodskaya Uprava", in several stretched or compressed variants). For the separate rainwater drain system, similar covers were made (see below). They are extremely rare nowadays.
There is also the "Moscow Urban Canalisation" written in pre-reform letters, found in Sokolniki (4th photo).

M.C.S. Sewerage (1920's)

In the early years of Soviet authority, in March 1920, out of Mossovet's communal department, the Moscow Communal Services ("Moskovskoe Kommunalnoe Khozyaistvo") were established. They performed the same duties the Moscow City Board did before the revolution. MCS operated water supply and sewer systems, as well as transport networks and other facilities. In 1929, following the formation of Moscow Oblast (largely based on the abolished Moscow Governorate), it was briefly renamed Moscow Regional Communal Services, and on February 1, 1931, it was liquidated altogether. But MCS left behind some fairly accurately dated covers of sewers and drains, in this case it's "MCS Sewerage".

1. The cover on Rusakovskaya Street has outlived all the original buildings around and patiently waits for its centenary.
2. Another option where the text is oriented parallel to the cross, and the center is empty.
3. In a square clip, with a 90-degree flipped "GK" marking.
4. At the very Red Square. For such a big place, the cover has its compartments filled.


M.C.B. Drainage (1910's)

From the very beginning, the street drainage (rainwater) networks in Moscow were built separately from the house sewage system and all the street dirt flowed unceremoniously into the nearest rivers through own pipes. Insufficient channel capacity (and, in general, their strong vulnerability to clogs) regularly shows with local floods after every sensible rainfall. On the pre-revolutionary drain manholes there was an inscription "Vodostok MGU" (that is, the Moscow City Board). All these hatches had enough time to be replaced over and over, so it's almost impossible to find them now, but a couple of them had still miraculously survived.

M.C.S. Drainage (1920's)

During the Soviet era, this design remained virtually unchanged until the late 1940's, when the cover became flat but retained much of its spirit until 1962. The text changed several times as well. In the 1920's, during the Moscow Communal Services authority, they wrote "Водосток МКХ" ("Vodostok MCS"), following the closely-related and similarly arranged sewer manholes. Most often they are found in a round frame, but sometimes in a square, such as on Strastnoy Boulevard.

Urban Drainage (1930's)

After the liquidation of the MCS in the early 1930's, newer drain covers changed their inscription; they had been marked as "Urban drain" ("Gorodskoy vodostok") for the next decade (if not longer). These almost always come with the rectangular base-clip, such as in Germany. Finally, either before the WWII, or immediately after, this inscription changed again into the simple, twice-repeated word "Drain". And shortly in 1947 the first GOST was issued, which practically destroyed the sectioned pattern manhole, and covers became flat (their further history here).

1. "Urban drain" (aka "City drain") as is.
2. Generally, these things are found in the middle of roads, pavements or public parks, therefore it's difficult to determine their age. But with this one, we can make a guess: the manhole is located in the courtyard of the "Pravda" Club, on Pravdy Street, constructed in 1937.
3. The obscure hatch in a filthy backyard of Frunzenskaya embankment.


Pre-revolution manhole covers with the names of their producers form the ever-decreasing Moscow's gold reserve, which is generally unknown to the citizens. Very few such relics remain, the main reason being that after the revolution Moscow became capital city and for many subsequent decades underwent several strong waves of reconstruction, mass and point demolition of old buildings, the whole blocks were wiped out by the steamrollers of Stalin's General Plans, the fronts of new streets broke through old quarters. Even a smaller city like Saratov has preserved more pre-revolution manholes, not to mention St.Petersburg, where up to now you can still find dozens of nominal covers. Alas, the destructive effect of time, unnecessary attention and metal theft, daily repairs, the constant threat of replacement, they all do their worst ... In such chaotic conditions it's real feat for a cast-iron cover to lie for the hundred years unscathed.

"Ludwig & Smith"

The foundry and mechanical works of the trading house "Ludwig and Smith" is represented by covers with full name along the rim and the reduction of "LiS" at the middle. The trading house existed since March 13, 1884, its members were Saxon subject Otto Ludwig and Englishman Arthur Smith. Their "cast-iron foundry and mechanical plant", following the ads, was founded in 1878 and was situated in Sadovniki district (later Sadovnicheskaya Street), house №76. Phone number 4-33. By 1916, about 170 people worked there. In Soviet times, the plant survived, but of course, in no way could avoid renaming. In the early 1930's it was renamed "Krasny Blok" and was known as such until the 90's, when it was closed for good.

1. A cover of the Trading house "Ludwig & Smith" in Kolpachny Lane. Remains of the full name can be seen at the right.
2. A cover from "LiS" in Potapovsky Lane.
3. An advertisement from a 1909 journal, describing their "cast-iron and copper foundry and mechanical works", which offered machinery for mills, scales, pipes, transmissions and steam engines.

"V. L. Libert"

There are several variations of manhole covers produced by the engineer Václav Libert. He owned an engineering bureau and mechanical workshop, founded in 1890, where about 30 people worked in 1909. The technical office was located in Myasnitskaya Street, engaged in water supply and sewerage construction, installation of water meters, sanitary facilities, ventilation, concrete walls and floors. In 1915, Václav Ludvikovich Libert was chairman of the board and managing director of the JSC "Russian Water Meters factory", which produced water meters and other appliances for water supply, sewerage and gas industry. There are advertisements of the technical office for 1898 and 1904.

1. A kind of cover in Romanov Lane, still serving.
2, 3. Two types of covers with the inscription "Engineer V.L.Libert Moscow", found in the town of Ryazan. Until recently, these existed in Moscow - at least, the compartment-plate variant could still be found after extensive search.
4. One of the surviving Moscow covers with a grammatical error in the word "Engineer".


The Moscow merchant of the second guild, Larion Pavlovich Lesnikov, lived in his own house No.11 in Ulansky Lane, in the second section of Sretensky district, and owned a water supply office. The address of his house is written on a fuller version of the cover: "Lesnikov Moscow Ulans.per". There are two types of covers known, one with a bracket handle, another with a ringlet.

1. Several covers with a single hand bracket (long-lost, of course), signed "Lesnikov, Moscow" were found in the courtyard of the Church of St.John the Evangelist under Elm - the former Museum of Moscow on Novaya Square. With the grand street reconstruction wave in 2017, the determined tilers came here to crush, kill and destroy, and so all these covers were ruthlessly wiped out.
2. The inscription in close-up.
3. The cover with full inscription (the design is slightly different), unfortunately, very shabby - in the courtyard of the house on Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya Street.
4. Another "Lesnikov, Moscow" on Spartakovskaya street, with a ringlet, making it look like a big bathtub stopper.

"L. F. Plo"

"L.F.Plo" are the initials of the Moscow businessman and French citizen Leon Frantsevich Plo, the owner of a technical office. Born in 1953, he had been listed as merchant since 1877, initially in the first guild, then descended into the second guild. He changed many places of residence and range of production. The 1878 catalogue of Moscow merchants also listed his wife, French citizen Sophie Plo, age 38. Obviously, through the years their business went downhill. Both Leon and Sophie Plo died in 1905 and were buried in the famous Vvedensky Cemetery. The trade then passed to their heirs: in 1909 the directories name certain Louise and Germain Plo as the office owners, they also owned a filing factory in Moscow. The company offered all kinds of equipment for factories, plants and railways, and was intermediary for the British "Gadfield" steel works in Sheffield, which produced special kind of steel of the same name, reinforced with manganese and very durable.
The only known hatch was found near the Yauzskie Vorota Square and looked like new, despite being more than hundred years old (at least). The diameter is larger than standard - 70 cm. Sadly, in 2018 the cover cracked and was done with.

"V. Gurtler Systems"

The unique and only known Moscow's oblong-shaped hatch named "V. Gürtler Systems" is preserved in the very heart of Moscow, near St.Basil's Cathedral. In St.Petersburg, they spread slightly more often, since the technical office of V. V. Gürtler, founded in 1874, was located there, complete with a concrete and asphalt-producing plant. They were engaged in concrete building, installation of water closets, sewers and cesspools. The eponymous "systems" of their own design were composed of concrete pipes 400 mm in diameter. The small size of the hatch was rather inconvenient and obviously did not contribute to any maintenance on these pipes. But this cover was preserved anyway and today it's one of the oldest Moscow covers. Since 1898, the bureau was renamed and called differently: "The Highest-Approved Joint Stock Company of Cement-Concrete Production, formerly V. V. Gürtler's".

"Ramenskaya Factory"

The paper-spinning factory of the Trade and Industrial Association "P. Malyutin Sons" was an advanced for its time and finely equipped enterprise located by the settlement of Ramenskoe in current Moscow Oblast. It was surrounded by residential quarters for the workers and had a sewage network in operation complete with wastewater-clearing station. Even today the old territory of the town of Ramenskoe still has some manhole covers of that system present. The factory was opened in 1828, owned by Pavel Maluytin since 1843, then by his sons. And the Association's charter was approved in May 7, 1876. One of its directors was Nikolay Pavlovich Malyutin. In 1928 the factory was named "Red Banner" ("Krasnoe Znamya") and since 1954 it was the biggest cotton combine until the fall of the USSR. Now the factory is ruined.

"A. A. Gutkov Technical Bureau"

A present from St. Petersburg. Alexei Gutkov was a hereditary honorary citizen, collegiate assessor, merchant since 1906. His bureau was engaged not only in common drain-pipe sewerage, but also researched and promoted a novelty: biological wastewater treatment ("septic tanks and automatic septic rakeouts", as was indicated on certain covers). At the Tsarskoe Selo Jubilee Exhibition in 1911, they showed in their pavilion the latest methods of biological sewer treatment, including drawings and photographs and installations with different types of oxidizer. The bureau was prolific and their covers also differ in design and are found in several towns. But there's probably the only such cover in Moscow, near Likhobory station of MCC.

"Cast-Iron Foundry"

The "cast iron foundry" - that's how the name translates. In Russian - "чугунно-литейный заводъ" ("chugunno-liteiny zavod"), written in pre-revolution style and with a mandatory hard sign, as it should be in pre-reform orthography. So while not quite nominal, it seems a decent pre-revolution cover. However, it's not quite so. It's met repeatedly in the most inconvenient places, such as many pre-war and post-war buildings of Soviet architecture, where it should not be. So it's only the spelling that is pre-1917, the cover itself dates to the 1950's. How could this happen? The most plausible theory is that the producers just forgot to remove the redundant letter while they kept on recycling an older pattern. They did remove the old foundry names, though, hence the free space below.

"House Canalisation"

The "House canalisation" is in the courtyard of the Church of St.John the Evangelist under Elm, where once was the Museum in Moscow. Despite the wild mass reconstruction around, which swept away several neighboring Lesnikov covers, this one remains so far. It probably was made by Lesnikov too, though no insciptions are shown. It's easy to find, though.

"I. S. P."

A small-sized cover in Chaplygina Street with the initials "I.S.P", which, most likely, mean an owner of a technical office - namely, I.S.Priyatelev. This name is mentioned in the address book "All Moscow" of 1896. His full name behind the initials is Ivan Spiridonovich, age 42, merchant since 1888. He lived in own house on Samotechnaya Street.

"I. B."

A cover with the inscription "I.B." ("И.Б."), encountered in "1st May Factory" settlement, south Moscow. Quite probably these are initials of the manufacturer Ivan Ivanovich Baskakov, the owner of said factory, then located at the village of Ryazanovo of the Dubrovitsky volost. He was a merchant since 1881. His main business was a spinning mill in the village of Ostashkovo, and the second factory, in Ryazanovo, was burned down and abandoned since 1892. It was rebuilt by 1912, the workers' barracks and other facilities were built on the other bank of the Desna River, apparently including manholes, as well as the owner's house. In 1916 it's referred to as the "English-worsted spinning mill", 382 workers. In Soviet times, the factory was named after the "1st May," and near it on the southern riverbank the same-named settlement gradually grew up.

"Paperno and Koretskiy"

"T. D. Engineers Paperno and Koretskiy" left their cover on Nizhnya Krasnoselskaya Street, which borrows its design from the regular sewer covers. The trade house ("T.D.") of these engineers was situated in house №3 of Lubyansky Lane. Telephone 272-76. Directories indicate that it had been active since March 13, 1913. Its members were Alexander Paperno (engineer-technician) and Abram Koretskiy (mechanic engineer). Since January 25, 1916 the Trade house was known as "Engineer A.Ya.Paperno & Co".

"Leningrad City Canalisation"

An exemplary specimen of the St.Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad sewer manhole. The cover depicted was used in the 1920-1930's and further until the early 1960's.
The history of St.Petersburg's sewer system is full of difficulties. Before the revolution, it was merely an array of cesspools and simple channels dumping sewage directly into the rivers. After the cholera outbreak in 1911, certain attempts were made, but everything stalled until after the revolution. Whatever already existed was in sorry state. In 1925, the construction of a new, separate wastewater system began on Vasilievsky Island, while elsewhere in the city the existing network was expanded, collectors rebuilt. By 1938, total length of the channels reached 1120 km. In 1939, the General Plan for the development of all-encompassing mixed canalisation system was finally adopted, but due to the WWII first work began in 1947 and still it took several decades. Until the end of the 1970's there was virtually no wastewater treatment in Leningrad, all waste ended up into the rivers. Currently, the city’s sewage system is combined - about 70% of the mixed runoff, other separated.
As in Moscow, the cover evolution led to changes of inscriptions, while keeping the overall shape. At first, these changes reflected the city renaming to Petrograd and later Leningrad. There was also neutral "Urban canalisation". It seems that the "classic" type continued until the introduction of the new GOST in 1962. Several such covers from the late period somehow settled near Moscow.


This old, always dirt-ridden cover hidden deep in Lyalin Lane has the inscription "Canalization" ("Канализацiя") - with the "i" letter, which is a sure sign of pre-revolution writing, abolished after 1918. So it happens to be pre-revolutionary, and the inscription is good in itself, no needs to regret the absence of a real manufacturer name.

"Nov' Plant in Borovichi"

In 1891, the military engineers Kolyankovsky brothers created a factory named "Nov'" in the town of Borovichi, Novgorod Oblast, for the production of ceramic pipes, wells and related ceramic products. Soon after it burned and was rebuilt anew, then was subjected to the Russo-Belgian Ceramic Products Society. It and was also known as the seventh plant of the Borovichi cluster - as there were other well-known enterprises for roasting and refractory products nearby. The Nov' plant carried out sewerage works, leaving behind titular covers which are especially common in the Leningrad region. Although the Nov 'plant itself didn't cast iron and they must've ordered manholes from somewhere else.
In 1922 the Borkombinat was organized, uniting all the local factories. The former Nov 'plant eventually carried on as a subject foundry of the Krasny Keramik Borovichi Plant (since 1957 - the Borovichi Refractory Plant). The photo was taken in the Samara Psychiatric Hospital which was built before the revolution.


Pavement light windows (commonly called "light hatches" in Russian, or "illuminators" in early XX century ads) are frames, usually rectangular or barrel-shaped, which contain cells filled with prismatic glass tiles. James Gray Pennycuick, a Boston inventor, patented these tiles in 1881 and ultimately developed methodics to produce them and devised several ideas of their application, the most admirable being the illumination of underground compartments. He founded the American Luxfer Prism Company, which began selling these glass tiles since 1896, supported by large-scale ad campaign. The Luxfer prisms provided better dispersion of light than other installments and so received great acclaim. Naturally, illuminators appeared in all modern European cities, including Moscow, where they were installed around pre-revolutionary shops and warehouses. Russian plants mastered production of frames where licensed lenses were attached into.

But during Soviet years, such luxury was no longer needed and Luxfer lenses were no longer imported, so the remaining windows aged and cracked, until they were either dismantled or simply rolled beneath asphalt. Several have survived, but even these are virtually unknown among general populace and now remain neglected. In 2015, during the repair of sidewalks on Myasnitskaya Street alone, almost two dozen of rotten hatches were unearthed from under the pavements. But only one returned a year after, the rest were gone.

"Northern Glass-Manufacturing Society"

The Northern Glass-Manufacturing (Glassworks) joint-stock society was located in St.Petersburg. The company was formed in 1894, assuming obligations, contracts and factories from the trading house "M.Erlenbach and C°". At the turn of the century, the company firmly held top positions in the glass and mirror industry. At the 1896 Nizhny Novgorod exhibition, the company was awarded honorary title "Supplier of the Court of His Imperial Majesty". The 1901 directory attributes to them several glass & mirror shops on Nevsky Prospect and other major streets, plus a factory. Fixed capital of the Northern society amounted 2.750.000 rubles. But soon the business began to decline due to the crisis of overproduction. In 1902, Maximilian Frank, a member of the Society’s board, founded the "M.Frank and Co." trading house, which all shops and contracts of the Northern JSC were leased to. All new illuminators were to be produced under the Frank brand (see below), and the Northern society itself was no longer mentioned since then.

1. Two rectangular frames of the Society are preserved in an inconspicuous courtyard of Lubyansky Lane. To see them, one has to enter an inhospitable-looking arch inside house number 3, which hides behind a small pre-revolutionary courtyard.
2. The inscription differs slightly from the official name, reading "Северное стеклопромышленное общество".

Advertisements for the North Society are present in a reference book "All-Russian industrial and art exhibition of 1896 year in Nizhny Novgorod", and also in an address book "All Don oblast and North Caucasus" for 1901.

"M.Frank & Co."

The Trading House ("faith partnership") "M. Frank and Co" was founded in 1902 by German subjects, Maximilian (Mikhail Andreevich) Frank and a hereditary honorary citizen, merchant Adolf Leontievich Frank, who made an agreement with the board of the Northern Glass-Manufacturing JSC - the monopolist and largest producer of that time - to rent all the latter's stores and work contracts. The company traded window and mirror glass, stained-glass windows of its own production. The first plant in our country for the production of pressed glass and other types of special glass (imported from abroad before) was built near Sablino station. In 1911, the Trading House was taken over by the St.Petersburg Glass-Manufacturing JSC, in which A. and M. Frank occupied key positions. Thus, their family monopolized glass industry in the northwestern region of Russia, selling glass products, mirrors, and especially stained glass not only through the Russian Empire, but also to foreign countries. But after the revolution, the owners were forced to flee abroad and their enterprises became property of the Soviet government.
Furthermore, after 1911, the Trading House operated in Moscow under the name "M.Frank and Son". Its members were Mikhail Andreevich Frank and his son, the Moscow merchant of the second guild Mikhail Mikhailovich Frank. Their office and stores were located in their own house №11 in Bolshoy Kiselny Lane. The illuminators of Frank's stock are the most frequent among that handful still remaining in Moscow.

1. "M.Frank and Son Trade House, Moscow", the title says. The frame's built into the porch of a house on Mashkova Street (constructed in 1911) and is probably the best preserved hatch available, despite no Luxfer prisms survived, and replacing them now is nigh impossible, so regular glass cutouts were put in.
2-4. Illuminators on Kuznetsky Most with lenses preserved - along the border of the long frame this inscription is written: "M.Frank and C° Trade House, own house [office] in B.Kiselny Lane."

1-2. In 2016 enthusiasts from the group "Remember all" unearthed several rotten frames of illuminators near the house №16/18 on Bol.Sukharevskaya Square, built in 1915. After some restoration work, the windows were positioned onto their historical places, available for everyone to look. There are six total, four of these show an identical inscription "Supplier of His Majesty's Court, M.Frank & C° Trade House, Moscow".
3. Small porthole under a wall in Rybny Lane, the very center of the city.

1. From the Directory "All Moscow" of 1905.
2. From the Directory "All Moscow" of 1907.
3. From the "Address book of Factory and Artisanal Industry of All Russia" (second edition), 1907-08.
4. From the "Guidebook of Moscow-Kursk Railway", year 1905.
5. Ad page from the "Guidebook of Construction and Art Exhibition of 1908".

"Heinrich Moldenhauer"

The technical office owned by Heinrich Andreevich Moldenhauer was involved in construction, decoration and sanitary works, selling production from various foreign manufacturers. The advertisements from 1886 and 1898 tell us what they were involved with: illuminators, glassware and glass bricks, fireproof glazed bricks, floor tiles, mosaics and wallpaper. The bureau was situated on Tverskaya Street, 14. By 1898 this house was purchased by the merchant Grigori Yeliseev who later opened his famous shop there, still operating. Further ads indicate the bureau moved to Kiselny Lane.

1. The pictured hatch itself is located in a strange manner: inside the narrow courtyards of Pokrovka Street (nearest house - №45s5). Underneath lies a technical room with pipes and valves, littered with all sorts of garbage, for the window now lets through far more stuff than the project envisaged. Seems that some lunatic deliberately wrecked the tiles off.
2-3. Of the six hatches recovered and reattached on Bol. Sukharevskaya Square 16/18, while four were made by Frank, the remaining two were manufactured by H.Moldenhauer and have rectangular form. The inscriptions are still intelligible: front side reads "Heinrich Moldenhauer Moscow", left side: "Bureau on Tverskaya St.", and right side: "corner of Kozitsky Lane, Lanina's house".
3. Fragment of the text: "Bureau on Tverskaya St.".
4. One of the advertisements.

"Bergman & Fom-Scheydt"

Illuminators from the "Bergman and Fom-Scheydt" Trade House are saved in Krivokolenny Lane near the entrance of the house №7 (both from street and yard sides). An inscription "LUXFER" is visible on the upper border, but instead of original prismatic lenses pieces of ordinary glass are inserted here too. The trade house existed since 1894 and was engaged in distribution of various machines, equipment for brick, paper and textile industry, civil engineering and installation of luxfer hatches. At first, they worked on Staraya Square in the Armand house and then moved to the Moscow Insurance Company building. One of the founders, Peter-Abraham Fom-Scheydt, was a Prussian subject, while Wilhelm Bergman was a citizen of Vilmanstrand of Vyborg province (now the Finnish city of Lappeenranta).

1. One of two hatches of the street side.
2. Rectangular hatch of the same house, but courtyard side, looks much shabbier and is usually hidden from eyes.
3. Another ruined frame found on the porch of the Historical Moscow Synagogue.
4. An advertisement from 1895.
5. An advertisement from 1914.

"L. Yu. Stetkevich"

This round-shaped porthole is so far the only one known in Moscow, but in badly ruined condition, the inscription so swollen with waste that it's almost unyielding to the reader. According to the surviving letters, it was possible to make out the writing as something like "L.Yu.Stetkevich ... Chistye Prudy, Epple house". Next step, studying certain directories from the beginning of the 20th century, and yes, such a person actually lived in this house and worked in a field of construction and water disposal (most likely, the owner of a small office). In addition, in 1907 four people with "Epple" surname were listed as living on Chistye Prudy, one at number 23, and others just in "their own house".


Manholes with these letters are only found among the historical medical campus in the district of Devichye Pole (which was built in 1887-1897 according to the master-plan of architect Konstantin Bykovski). Most of the buildings are now occupied by Sechenov's Moscow Medical University (also known informally as "First Med", aka MMA) and several clinics. Before the revolution, the medical complex of the Imperial Moscow University (now MSU) was located here, and so the abbreviation "KIMU" could be deciphered as "Clinics of the Imperial Moscow University" (original transcription: "Kliniki Imperatorskogo Moskovskogo Universiteta") with a high degree of certainty. Markings for all three "original" types of communication were found - water supply, sewerage and drains.

1. "Canalization" in Rossolimo street.
2. The cover with slightly abbreviated name "Canalizat." beside the so-called "Road of life".
3. "Water supply" hatch next to the former dermatology and venereal diseases clinic (Pirogovskaya St., 4c1).
4. "Drainage" on Pogodinskaya Street. The sneaky road services have been here, leaving their annoying mark.

Duminichi Plant

The full inscription reads "Tsyplakov and Labunsky Partnership, Duminichi Works". This foundry was established in 1881 near the village of Duminichi in Zhizdrinsky Uezd, the first melting took place on February 17, 1883. In 1899 the Duminichi station of the Moscow-Kiev railway was opened nearby. The plant was considered one of the largest in Kaluga Governorate, and its production was awarded medals at the 1908 Paris industrial exhibition. It produced cast-iron and enameled utensils, fireplaces, stoves and boilers, equipment for baths and so on.
"A detailed index on the departments of the All-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition of 1896 in Nizhny Novgorod" reports that there were one blast furnace with a steam engine and two cupola furnaces at the plant, and there worked 532 people. Ore was delivered from nearby Nikitinsky Iron Mine, located in the same district and owned by the Partnership as well. The reference book of 1913 "Factories and Plants of All Russia" also mentions the mine, and claims the plant has 500 workers, five steam engines and one locomobile with combined capacity of 97 horsepower; turnover of 387.500 rubles per year.
The Partnership that owned the plant before the revolution consisted of the brothers Mitrofan and Olympiy Tsyplakov, and Joseph Labunsky, it was founded in 1883 with a fixed capital of 600 thousand rubles.
After 1917, as most other enterprises in Russia, the foundry was nationalized by the Bolsheviks. From 1922 to 1944, it was called "Revolutionary". In 1940 it produced 51 thousand enameled bathtubs, 5.5 thousand washes, more than 50 thousand washbasins, 20 thousand bath fireboxes. During the WWII it was completely destroyed by the Nazis, then restored in 1947 and still exists to this day - in the village of Duminichi of Kaluga Oblast.

1. Full-name cover, which is significantly smaller in size than usual.
2. The shortened signature on Delegatskaya Street. Such covers were laid after the revolution, where the Partnership was no more, so only the plant name remained.
3. A 1898 ad for the Duminichi plant.
4. Advertisement from the trust "Gozachugplav" of 1926, which included the former plant under No.12.

Mur and Meriliz

The most renowned trading house in Imperial Russia was founded in 1842 by two merchants of Scottish origin, Andrew Muir (1817-1899) and Archibald Mirrielees (1797-1877), whose names were pronounced and written in Russian as "Mür and Meriliz". In 1880's the company moved from St.Petersburg to Moscow and opened a haberdashery shop in Kuznetsky Most, which attracted high public interest and became one of the most successfull stores, well-known among the residents of the city. The shop offered free catalogues, goods could be ordered via mail and were delivered through all the country. A furniture factory was also opened in Moscow.
But not only for successful trade the "Mur and Meriliz" house was known, as it also owned a technical department in the beginning of the XX century, which engaged in the installation of sanitary communications, advertising themselves on the corresponding manhole covers. Quoting the 1905 advert: "The technical department of "Mur and Meriliz": water supply, sewerage, floor tiles, facing bricks, sanitary accessories: bathtubs, sinks, wash basins... Sewerage is equipped in about 500 properties in Moscow and the province". By 1912, catalogue of offered works was expanded significantly: gas and furnace installation became available, and sanitary networks had already been equipped in more than 1,000 properties.
Due to M&M's large scope of action, quite a lot of manholes remained in the center of Moscow and around the historical outskirts of the city. They were preserved even in the least suitable places such as sidewalks of big streets, but due to new waves of repair and reconstruction, many disappeared - for example, the one on the first photo. The large-scale campaign for the repair of central streets, unleashed in 2016 (aka "My Street" program) made a disastrous effect on every old cover that fell under the wheel.

1. There are half a dozen variants of "M&M" design, different in details, but almost every one is a "compartment plate" for sewerage, though a couple of flat water supply covers were preserved elsewhere. Here's one of the species that was found in the center of Moscow, at the intersection of Bolshaya Nikitskaya and Mokhovaya Street. After the last repairs there are hundreds of identical modern hatches (boring), and this one is no more.
2. Amazingly well-preserved cover with a design borrowed from the M.S.B. sewage system.
3. The third, rare version of "Mur and Meriliz" (with bigger letters and crosses) lay in the territory of the TSAA (Timiryazev Agricultural Academy), on the northern outskirts of Moscow. It was stolen in 2019.
4. A thousand rubles share of the "Mur and Meriliz" Partnership, 1908.
5. An advert for the "Mur and Meriliz" shop itself, from 1907.

The enthusiasts from the group "Remember All" tried to save at least one of the "MiM" covers in Nastasinsky Lane in 2016, to restore it as a museum exhibit after the street repair is complete. By overcoming a hundred bureaucratic barriers, they managed to install the cover and even placed an info tablet - unfortunately, right under the bench where it is difficult to notice. According to their Facebook page, "the cover can be visited near the Loan Treasury building in Nastasinsky Lane, 3, on the sidewalk near the right wing of the building." Also, the second MiM cover can be visited a little to the left of this place, on the lawn under the building.

EARLY SOVIET ERA (1920's - 1930's)


After the revolution, namely in 1921, "Mur and Meriliz" was turned into the Moscow state joint-stock company "Mostorg". On March 10, 1922, their main department store (later known as TsUM, aka Central Department Store) was inaugurated in place of that very shop that was commandeered from M&M by the Soviets. By 1929, the Mostorg system consisted of the central department store, 9 district stores and several smaller shops. In addition to trade, the organization continued to supply communal and urban construction services. For the next decade they kept their technical department, issuing new manholes and advertising themselves on their covers. In 1931, Mostorg was divided into regional and urban sections, the construction units were transferred to other subjections, and their name hasn't been used on covers since then (although Mostorg itself survived, and in 1975-76 they included 60 enterprises - 47 department stores and 13 branches).
The Mostorg covers slowly become endangered species. Usually they do not seem to lay in plain sight; one can find them in solitary, but even more often clustered, in different parts of Moscow and the region, especially among residential areas built in the 1920's, also in monasteries: Novodevichiy and Nikolo-Ugreshsky. There are three versions of Mostorg covers of different shapes and sizes. The first type has relatively narrow edge and noticeable bulge. The second is enlarged, almost flat, checkered pattern extending to the edge. The third type is quite rare and is made as a compartment plate.

1. The usual (convex) size cover shot on the territory of Novodevichy Convent.
2. A bigger cover from Mostorg in the territory of the formerly great "Dinamo" factory, which became business center and was opened for visitors. Note the letters here not touching the rim, and enlarged asterisks.
3. Wide-format Mostorg with a bitten-off edge. However, simple and beautiful design, good casting quality, could be shown to foreign tourists without much shame. One of my favorite types. This one resided under the church in Old Simonovo (the same "Dinamo" plant) and disappeared, unfortunately, during repairs in 2016. Not even replaced - just disappeared.
4. Yet another of large Mostorg in the area of Izmaylovskoye highway. Diameter equals 76 cm.

1. In the courtyards of the former workers' quarter on Shabolovka (house on the left - 1931). Water flow is heard inside.
2. The sectioned "Mostorg" in the vicinity of Entuziastov Highway. The only known such cover in Moscow.
3. Very similar in design to "Mostorg", but much rarer is the following cover, issued by the Trust "Stroitel" (e.g. "Builder"). This Moscow-based construction bureau was established under the Moscow Council of the National Economy ("MSNH", whose four-letter signature can be seen above) on January 2, 1926, and, as was stated in their ads, "accepts all kinds of construction work". Soon the bureau (since 1929 - the Moscow Regional Trust) began to participate in significant projects, such as construction of large plants, factories, clubs and many other enterprises in the capital and suburbs. In 1931 the trust became a part of Mospromstroy, then kept changing affiliations. Unlike Mostorg, the lid does not have ears but rather two hookholes.
4. A cover from the Trust "Stroitel" in the town of Krasnogorsk - by the houses of 1929-30 years. This one has ears.


The Moscow State Construction company (later trust) by the name of "Mosstroy" was established in March 1922 and was engaged in construction and repair of buildings, installation of engineering networks for them, and accordingly, installation of manhole covers, which are still encountered in reasonable numbers. Mosstroy was one of the largest offices in the field, its specialists built many residential complexes in the 1920's. Their activity also extended around Moscow Oblast, and the board was located in the house №16 in Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street. In 1932 the company was renamed.

1. The first variety - half the rim is allotted for the inscription. Photo taken in Fadeeva Street. There are several subtypes with slight differences in the pattern and thickness of the letters.
2. The same type: from the territory of the former Karpov Chemical Plant near Metro st. Nagatinskaya.
3. The second variety - the word is inscribed inside the boxes around the frame of a typical "compartment plate" cover, and the center has a sewerage marking ("GK"). The font is pretty thin so it's usually erased over the years.
4. The third variant has each letter in its own cell. Shot in Novokirochny Lane.

"Moskust" JSC

These covers are rare artifacts from the 1920's. The inscription "Moskust" stands for the Moscow combined cluster: a joint-stock company, created in 1922 from industrial enterprises of different profile - textile, shoe factories, glassworks etc., and a foundry (the word "kust", derived from German "kunster", has now lost its second meaning as "cluster").
The foundry in question was started in 1898 under the name of "Mechanical Plant for the Development of Heating Devices for Central Heating Systems" and belonged to the "Russian Society of the Körting Brothers' Machine-Building Plant". The founders of said Society were German subjects Berthold and Ernst Körting, and Gustav Fusch. Its charter was approved on January 24, 1904 and refers to the plant as located "near the village of Vsesvyatsky." In 1914 the address of the Körting's plant is specified as "Moscow, on the 11th versta of St.Petersburg Highway", the board was located in Myasnitskaya Street. The brothers Körting founded their main trading house on November 1, 1871 in Hannover - the company Körting Hannover AG still exists.

In 1916 the foundry is referred to as the "Moscow City's plant, formerly Br. Körting's". In the "All Moscow" directory from 1925 there is an announcement: "Cast-iron foundry and mechanical plant of Moskust (formerly Körting)" sells from its warehouse: radiators, pipes and fittings, Körting system pots, boilers, water equipment, cast iron and bronze. Address - Leningradskoe highway, 11th versta. The charter of "Moskust" was released a year earlier and listed "different types of cast iron, ribbed pipes, radiators & other heating appliances." In 1927 it became the Heating Equipment Plant, renamed after P.L.Voykov and continued to work throughout the whole Soviet period until demolished in 2009.
The first Moskust sewer cover was found in Sokolniki. A slightly different design which has the sewerage marking lies in the courtyard of Sandunov baths.


This is the abbreviated name of the joint stock company - the All-Russian (later All-Union) Procurement Association of Communal Services, established in 1921 (the charter was approved in 1923). Several varieties of their manholes have been found - some are flat, others sectioned, but all are distinguished favorably by their appearance. In 1927, the company got a designing and construction bureau which developed projects for underground communications (among other works). In June 1930, all joint-stock enterprises of the USSR lost their independence, including VZOK, which was at first subordinated to the Main Administration of Communal Services (GUKH) of the NKVD of the RSFSR, and then, after the latter's abolition on December 15 of the same year - passed to the GUKH under Sovnarkom.
In the directories for 1924-26 the company's location was Nikolskaya Street 3B, where their main technical office resided also. Among shareholders mentioned was the GUKH of the NKVD. They changed more locations during the following years. They were also mentioned in the "Plan for the May Day demonstration" of 1933. Approximately by this year VZOK ceased to exist, and after 1934 no references mention them.

1. The wonderful hatch with an indirect mention of the Soviet Russia. As the Soviet Union was formed only in December 1922, so the cover can be considered earlier production. Or maybe not. They could very much use the "All-Russian" and "All-Union" names together even after 1922, and directories indicate they really did.
2. "VZOK Joint Stock Society. Technical office - Moscow, Nikolskaya, 3". Another great cover from Sokolniki.
3. Well-preserved and very spectacular compartment manhole by the VZOK's technical office. Again, they are mentioned at Nikolskaya str., as we already know, so was in mid-1920's.
4. In the area of Bakuninskaya Street (by a house of 1926), several covers with the detailed name were uncovered: "Joint Stock Society All-Union Procurement Association of Communal Services, Moscow".

"Kommunstroy" Trust

A single manhole was found beside Kalanchevskaya railway pavillion. The state joint-stock company for the production of communal construction works "Kommunstroy" was created by resolution of the Economic Council of the RSFSR on November 6, 1928, and based on VZOK's design-consulting bureau. The founders were: NKVD, JSC "VZOK" and the Councils of Deputies of Nizhny Novgorod and Tula, with the fixed capital of one million rubles. The company, subordinated to the NKVD of the RSFSR, set its goal in design and construction of all types of public services and urban sanitary facilities, and they built networks in many cities - not only the Russian republic, but also other republics of the USSR, so their covers are still found elsewhere. In 1931 it was reorganized into the State Trust "Kommunstroy" and by the end of 1937, design and survey works were withdrawn from its sphere of activity.

"Cooperator" Plant (St. Petersburg)

This St.Petersburg-based plant comes from a mechanical workshop, which was opened on February 2, 1853 by a Russian businessman and inventor of German descent, Franz Karlovich San-Galli. The workshop evolved into the machine-building, cast-iron foundry and boiler works, and a trading house was established, the most important specialization of which was installation of heating systems - in the mid-1850's San-Galli perfected the design of the first water heating radiators and invented the well-known "heating batteries", which then spread all over the world but became most intimately known to citizens of the USSR. The San-Galli trading house, one of the largest and most famous in the Northern capital, produced literally everything that does exist in the industry: steam engines, boilers, decorative and technical cast-iron molding, metal structures, lifting equipment, overhead cranes, elevators and of course, manholes (examples of them are still preserved in St.Petersburg's streets). They engaged in engineering projects, and first ever pipe-making department was opened here as well. After the revolution, the plant was renamed, bore the name "Cooperator" since 1922, and since 1933 was renamed the Paper-machine building plant. Now, like so many enterprises in St.Petersburg, it is closed and ruined.

1, 2. In the first post-revolution years, when Soviet enterprises were mentioned, their former "old-regime" names were added in brackets to avoid confusion. Even a cover with similar inscription (and the phone number) does exist: it notes the Cooperator plant as "formerly San-Galli's".
3. Similar cover in the territory of the Golitsyn hospital. An advert from 1925 positions the plant's Moscow office at No.13 on Myasnitskaya Street. Phone number 1-46-49. Pipes of cast iron, scales, equipment for laundries were produced.
4. Here it lacks the phone number. It seems that the workers were annoyed by constant calls.

"KomZarya" Plant (Syntul - Kasimov)

The Syntul foundry and mechanical plant "Kommunisticheskaya Zarya" ("Communist Dawn") was located in the settlement of Syntul - seven versts from Kasimov town in Ryazan Oblast. It was founded in 1786 and belonged to the dynasty of well-known manufacturers Batashevs, who owned many other metallurgical plants in Russia. In the directory of 1910 the owner of the Syntul plant was M.I.Batashev, about 230 people worked on it, and they produced cast-iron heating appliances and boilers, utensils and other articles of cast iron. In 1914 there were already 300 workers. In 1918 the plant was nationalized. Before the Great Patriotic War, manhole covers of 62 and 69 cm in diameter were made (the size was indicated on the lid itself). After the war, apparently, they continued to make hatches but already in accordance with GOST 3634-47 with the marking "Syntul plant". In 2011, the plant was finally destroyed, its buildings half-demolished.

1. The typical cover signed "KASIMOV KOMZARYA PLANT", d=69 cm.
2. Kasimov's cover of smaller diameter - 62cm - is located near the Vvedensky Church in Barashi.
3. The "KomZarya" cover and its base ring near the old building of TsNIIS (date of construction 1930).
4. The post-war cover design according to the GOST-47, used in the 1950's.

1st May Foundry (Verkhnedneprovsk)

It was founded in January 1898 as the Verkhnedneprovsk Metallurgical Plant and operated by the Belgian "Upper Dnieper Metallurgical Society". It was set to manufacture cast-iron pipes & agricultural equipment. There was a small blast furnace and a foundry with two cupola furnaces. However, unable to withstand competition with larger enterprises, the furnace was stopped the following year and only the pipe foundry remained. In the 1920's it became base for a cast iron foundry named after the First May, which bore this name until the collapse of the USSR, but began to work properly only after expansions were made in the mid-1930's. In 1939, the People's Commissariat of Construction Materials Industry (NKPSM) was organized, only in the territory of the RSFSR and Ukraine, to which the plant was subordinated. The earliest known covers are marked with the same year. During the WWII, the plant was destroyed, but resumed work in 1944, providing collective farms with castings and spare parts for agricultural machinery, also producing sanitary equipment.
The plant's output, while scarce, has been well-preserved in the Moscow region and other cities. The appearance of covers in early years is interesting - a ring-tiled figure ("amphitheater") with date of issue placed at the center. Along the edge are the inscriptions "NKPSM USSR" (the Commissariat) and "Plant named after 1st May, Verkhnedneprovsk" (bottom). Known dates are 1939, 1940, 1941, 1945 and 1949. The plant was rebuilt in 1944, continued to produce manholes according to the acting GOSTs in the 70-80s, and seems to keep working now.

1. Cover of 1939 in the district of Sokol.
2. Cover of 1940 near Ustinsky Most. For comparison, the same external design in the late 1940's was used by the iron foundry of the Dneprodzerzhinsk industrial combine, whose hatch was found in Moscow suburbs.
3. Year 1940 in the city of Tver.
4. A scarce early 1960's version is found in Obninsk, the science town packed with foreign manhole covers. This design is similar to other plants' production of Dnepropetrovsk Oblast of Ukraine. "V-Dneprovsk Cast Iron Foundry [named after the] 1st May", the inscriprion says.

1. VChLZ ("ВЧЛЗ") 1966 - the heavy cover made already after the newer standard (GOST 3634-61 implemented in 1962). Earlier dates are not found, possibly the previous concentric design was still in use.
2. Another heavy cover of the same year, but different. No "1st May" is mentioned, but sometimes it could be seen.
3. An yet another "scaly" design from 1966, which is the most used in subsequent years.
4. Year 1967. Like the previous one, found in Obninsk.

1. An example of transitive-styled cover from 1974, taken in Kaluga. Still the scaly design but not the "lattice" that would be used soon. But the official logo (a rhombus) is already there.
2. Shot in Khimki, this 1978 cover show the most usual form of the 70's.
3. Year 1977 from Podolsk. The new design is fully adopted here. Here the town name is written.
4. The most recent Soviet design (with a trademark rhombus logo), issued in the 1980's after the GOST of 1979.

Peskovsky Plant

In 1772 the merchant Ivan Kurochkin organized a foundry on the Peskovka River in the Vyatka province - after the deposits of iron ore were found in surrounding marshes (nowadays it is an urban settlement of Peskovka, Kirov region). In 1781, the plant employed 48 people. In subsequent years, it repeatedly changed owners, alternating between prosperity and debts. In 1879, it was sold to Yaroslavl merchants Pastukhovs (Alexander Matveyevich, merchant of the first guild and his nephews Nikolay and Pavel) and began to progress, making cast iron weights and household casting (irons, plates, pots), pig-iron and sheet iron. In 1913, the "Joint Stock Co. of the Northern Plants" was formed, which owned four plants, including Peskovsky. A year later, there worked 600 people. In 1927 the factory was put on conservation till 1931 when the railway branch was constructed and the receipt of ore and fuel was renewed. In 1941, the factory was subjected to the People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metallurgy and mastered production of F-1 grenade shells.
The pre-war Peskovsky hatches are found massively in certain places of the Moscow Oblast and are easily recognized due to their grandiose size. Most recent covers are dated of the late 90's and so on. In 2008, the long-suffering plant was closed for the last time, and apparently for good. They repeatedly promised to restore it, but...

1. A typical Peskovsky hatch is very large and bulging. You can see the small name "PESKOVSKY PLANT" above.
2. In the pre-WWII regions in the town of Krasnogorsk. The surrounding houses were built in 1939-40.
3. A new-age cover with a comfortable semi-circular stripe, where the GOST and year of manufacture are written together - in our case, 1989. Before 1992 it was named "Peskovsky cast-iron plant" and abbreviated "ПЧЗ", as we see here. Later it was officially renamed to "foundry" ("ПЛЗ").
4. In 2001 a new logo was registered. A cover made year after keeps the stripe and adds this logo.
5. Yet newer cover, made in accordance with the current GOST-99 (in use since 2003), which allows no date to be written. And so there is no date indicated, the stripe only shows type of cover - middle-weight.

"Udarnik" Plant (Zaporozhye)

The pre-war cover issued by the enigmatic factory "Udarnik" ("Ударник"), from the city of Zaporozhye, Ukraine. Text always written in Ukrainian, with the abbreviation "NKMP URSR" - which means the People's Commissariat of Local Industry of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (established in 1934). There is another, postwar version of the cover, the mark changed to "MPBM URSR" - Ministry of Building Materials Industry. Similar design was used by other Zaporozhye-based plants, such as EMZ MMP, Dneprostroy and ZVRZ - both before and after the war.

1. In the courtyards of Zamoskvorechye (not preserved).
2. In the town of Elektrougli, Moscow Oblast.
3. In the town of Fryazino, near the house built during the war.
4. The post-war version from Moscow, made sometime during the 1950's.

"Krasny Selyanin" Plant (Ukraine)

The small but prolific foundry "Krasny Selyanin" ("Красный Селянин", lit. "red peasant") has left a couple of covers in Moscow and also in many other towns. One cover was found in the territory of a former factory, the First Moscow Appliance-building plant, constructed in the 1930's. At first, no information about this producer was available whatsoever: no address and not even exact date of production. Finally, the only mention was encountered in the "All Ukraine and AMSSR" Directory for 1927/28: the cast-iron and mechanical foundry "Krasny Selyanin" was located in the settlement of Lesovka of the Stalin Okrug in Ukraine. This district existed in 1923-1930, later became Donetsk Oblast, and the plant also produced consumer goods such as irons.

Plant №8 (Balashov)

Pre-war manholes from the town of Balashov, Saratov Oblast. I would like to write something interesting and historic, but unfortunately, nothing is known about this plant. One can only make guesses, since Balashov is a rather small town.

1. A large hatch with traces of painting on VDNKh. This pimply design was typical for various factories around Saratov and obviously survived after the revolution as well.
2. "Plant No.8, Balashov", a hatch of more familiar form near a pre-war building in Podolsk.
3. In Ibragimova Street in Moscow, with traces of staples.

Plant №2 of NKVD

The Plant №2 "Stroydetal" of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs was established on June 2, 1940 in the village of Novohovrino, north-west of Moscow. In 1942, it was subordinated to HOZU (communal administration) of the NKVD. Until 1951, it produced hardware, machinery and castings for high-rise buildings, freight and passenger elevators, beds, irons and repaired all types of cars. In 1953 it was transformed into the Machine-building plant and switched to the production of agricultural machinery, such as harvesting machines and fertilizer spreaders. In 1954, the plant was transferred to the Ministry of Tractor and Agricultural Machinery and was named "Mosselmash". The name is still in use, although the output has reduced almost to naught since the nineties.
1. During the middle of war, in 1942, construction of Zhilgorodok - a district of wooden houses - began in the area where would later be the city of Zheleznodorozhny, Moscow Oblast. It had been created under the supervision of the NKVD's administration of airfields. So unsurprisingly the water pipeline hatches (marked "G.V.") were issued for this area by their own mechanical plant (especially since other factories were under the stress of wartime). There was no sewage facility in that houses for several years - therefore, no sewage manholes. The marking reads "Plant №2 N.K.V.D. U.S.S.R."
2, 3. The sewer hatches are found primarily at the plant territory itself, in Moscow, and at the nearest house, which was frozen mid-construction during the war and completed in 1945.
4. Also in the Mosselmash plant territory - the manholes marked with "П" - presumed to be the "Fire hydrant".

"Mashinostroitel" Plant

Made in accordance with the pre-revolutionary pattern, but instead of the "Moscow City Board" disclaimer, another inscription was posted: "Moscow, Zavod Mashinostroitel". The covers were found in the territory of the former "Soyuz" plant of Luzhniki. Prior to the First World War, the aniline paint factory of Friedrich Bayer & Co was located here, from which the oldest buildings are preserved. In 1915, industrialist N.A.Vtorov organized here a factory for the production of shells and ammunition for the army. After the revolution, the territory repeatedly changed owners. During the Great Patriotic War, the State Plant №300 was created here to carry out experimental work on aircraft engines. It evolved finally and was renamed "Soyuz", but does not exist anymore.
However, the cover itself was made elsewhere - at the plant "Mashinostroitel" (e.g. "Machine-builder") which belonged to the trust "Mosssredprom", was established in 1918 on the basis of earlier works, produced cast iron and steel castings, trolleys, winches, excavators. In 1961, the special design bureau "Motor" was created at its site.

Novocherkassk Labor Colony

The cover made at the labor colony in Novocherkassk is found in the old territory of the former AZLK, the Soviet car-manufacturing giant (now closed and turned into pitiful wasted condition). These manholes were installed before the war and are found in many cities of the former USSR. The correctional labor colony for minors was located in the former Novocherkassk theological school from 1921 to 1938, then was upgraded and turned into the Machine-tool building plant subordinated to NKTM. Before the war started, this plant also managed to produce a cover with similar design (see here). The plant was finally destroyed in 1999.

Artel "Metallist" (Pos. Kaganovicha)

Probably the most famous (among those who know) manhole in the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (VDNKh) is this one from Donbass, made by the artel "Metallist" from the settlement "imeni Kaganovicha". In the year of 1936 the settlement of Popasnaya of Lugansk Oblast (Ukrainian SSR) was renamed in honor of the Comrade L.M.Kaganovich (perfectly alive yet, of course) and soon was granted town status. But before that the artel managed to release this cover (VDNKh was built just in 1936 and was opened in 1939). In 1943, the town had its original name returned, then the artel became a factory (Popasnaya Metallist Plant).
The cover was destroyed in 2018.

Artel "KIM" (Mushketovo)

The spectacular manhole cover from the Donetsk-based artel "KIM" was found in the Moscow Oblast town of Khimki. Full inscription reads: "D.O.M.P.S. artel KIM, Mushketovo station, year 1936" ("Д.О.М.П.С. арт. КИМ ст. Мушкетово 1936 г"). The Mushketovo station was opened in 1892 on the outskirts of Donetsk to transport coal from nearby mines and named after the landowner, Lieutenant-Colonel A.S.Mushketov. Now this place is absorbed into the city, next to the large DMZ plant. The abbreviation "DOMPS" stands for the local metalworking cooperative union ("Donetsky OblMetPromSoyuz"), one of many such unions which controlled the artels. And "KIM", of course, stands for the Young Communist International - a desirable "surname" for businesses of those days.

"Krasny Liteishik" (Slaviansk)

The foundry "Krasnyi Liteishik" (lit. "Red Caster") based in the city of Slaviansk (Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine) eagerly produced pre-war manholes with a revolutionary design: a star at the center. Sometimes the sickle & hammer is added to the star, or it disappears, but there is one variant where instead of the star there is the inscription "DOMPS", similar to the previous "KIM" hatch and with the same meaning. Last mention of the plant "Krasnyi Liteishik" could be found in the list of devastations committed by the Nazi invaders in Slavyansk during WWII, no information is available after that; possibly the plant was not rebuilt. The cover itself lies near to the First Ball-Bearing plant, built since 1932. And there are other places and towns dotted with these covers, most of them have the star design like this one.

Podolsky Promtorg Plant (Podolsk)

The compartment-plate cover is made by the foundry of the Podolsky Promtorg. "Promtorg" means "Commercial and Industrial Combine": a kind of small association of a town's plants & factories, which produced and sold on their own. There were many of these around smaller towns of Moscow Oblast during the first years of Soviet reign. This one operated in the town of Podolsk. The advertisement of the Podolsky Promtorg for 1927 mentions the brickworks, printing works and repair shops included, but the iron foundry is listed only in the next year ad. The covers were found in Moscow, but most often, in Podolsk itself (and no wonder).

Lenin Plant (Kirsanov)

The younger brother of the Kasimov "KomZarya" factory - their covers use same design, but this type is much rarer, as the manufacturer was rather small. Before the revolution, it was the mechanic foundry belonged to one E.Kokorev, later renamed Kirsanov cast-iron foundry. In the 1920's, it was handed to an agricultural commune named after V.I.Lenin. There worked about 35 casters and turners. In the 1930's the plant submitted to the Ministry of Textile Industry, was expanded then, changed names: became a Mechanical Foundry, and since 1966 - the Textile machinery plant.

1st May Plant (Tver)

The plant was founded in 1902 as a foundry based in the town of Tver (Kalinin since 1931). From 1904 to 1915 it was called the "Steel & Cast-iron Foundry and Machine-building Plant of the Faith Partnership of A.P.Zverintsev", produced cast iron, copper, steel castings, weaving machines and parts, steam hammers and winches, trolleys and parts for wagons. In 1910, the annual production of 100,000 rubles, 106 workers, one steam engine with a capacity of 90 horsepower. It was located on Seminarskaya street. At the beginning of 1916 it was jointly acquired by the owners of the Ursus machine-building plants evacuated from Warsaw and enterpreneur K.A.Meshchansky, but the revolution occured shortly. In 1920 it was nationalized, rebuilt and received new name: Tver Foundry and Mechanical Plant named after the 1st May.
In the 1960s, it mastered new assortment of products and was renamed into stamp factory.
Almost all covers made by the foundry were found at the houses built in 1928-1929 by the Proletarka Factory Improvement Fund for Workers. However, the one pictured was found near the old barracks in the town of Pushkino near Moscow.

Trust "TsentroGidroStroy"

Covers made by "Tsentrogidrostroy" were found around Mosfilm, the film studio built since the late 1920's. The bureau had been operating in roughly the same years, applying for such works as drainage, waterworks, construction of wells and sewer systems. It was named in the 1930 Moscow Directory with 40 employees, and during previous years, but not since. The similarity between their covers and those from the next entry suggest some succession (or, at the very least, the same foundry they had been using).

Trust "Gidrotechstroy"

"Gidrotekhstroy" was the State Union's Trust for Hydrotechnic Structures, operated under the supervision of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy (VSNKh), their office located in Moscow, and established on December 31, 1929. The Trust designed dams, ports, harbors, canals, carried out projects of river regulation and dam strengthening. In July 1930, their project department was transferred to the unified trust Spetsstroyproekt, which soon began to design the Moscow-Volga Canal. In 1935 the office was closed. The cover was discovered near the campus at Sokol, built in the years 1929-35.

Trust "Uralsibspetsstroy"

The covers issued by the trust "UralSibSpetsStroy" were encountered in the courtyard in First Mashinostroyeniya Street. The trust was formed by decree from the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry (NKTP) of the USSR on January 24, 1938. It was assigned for conducting hydrotechnic construction and installation works in the Ural-Siberian region. In 1941 it was turned into special construction and assembly unit, in January 1946 merged with other units and renamed Uralspecstroy, existed under that name until 1979, when it was renamed back again, but that's another story.

"Yeysk Waterworks"

The water supply cover from the town of Yeysk somehow turned up in Moscow. The hatch has a locking device (a screw) on the left side. Judging by the pre-war appearance, this is a relic of the first stage of the town's water supply construction. Until 1929 Yeysk suffered from a lack of drinking water, which had to be stored in rain tanks. Several attempts of drilling failed or ended in accidents. By 1924, once again, the water issue was raised and further developed. Sixteen exploratory wells were bored in a ring around the city, max depth down to 40 m. Construction of the water supply began in April 1928 and was completed by 1930. In the next few years, the system expanded significantly and also incorporated sewage lines.


There is a beautiful unified design of certain pre-war hatches originating from Belarusian Soviet Republic. These covers are explicitly convex and decorated with a kind of cartouche, in which the name of a manufacturing plant is written. Perhaps this design, uncharacteristic even for the early Soviet era, had pre-revolutionary roots? Usually the manholes can be found around the houses built just before the war - there are several such habitats in Moscow and Moscow Oblast: in Balashikha, Krasnogorsk, for example; they seem to be less prevalent in Belarus itself.
The design was used by following plants - "Comintern" from Vitebsk (inscriptions in Russian or Belarusian), the Kirov plant - also from Vitebsk, the Dimitrov plant from Mogilev, and there's also "Vitebsk polytechnicum", not seen in our region. Some of them are smaller than usual, diameter equals 54 cm.

"Comintern" Plant (Vitebsk)

1. The Vitebsk-based plant "Comintern" produced manholes of various size, which can now be found in Moscow and other towns. The plant was founded in 1877 and was called "I.Greenberg Ironcasting and Engineering Plant" (see ad). Since 1924 renamed the Vitebsk Iron-Casting and Machine-Building Plant No.1 "Comintern" of the Association of the metalworking industry of the VSNKh. In December 1940 it was transformed into the Vitebsk Machine-tool-building plant "Comintern". It was one of the largest factories in Belarus before 2002, when it was absorbed by another former manhole manufacturer - the VISTAN plant. See the inscription here in closer look.
2. The "Comintern" plant cover in Belarusian language. The design is somewhat different from the Russian version, there is a lot of free space inside the cartouche as the latter is stretched almost to the boundaries (or rather, the overall cover is smaller - 54 cm). Such covers have been found so far only in Krasnogorsk and Balashikha (naturally, in pre-war areas).

Kirov Plant (Vitebsk)

This Vitebsk-based factory was founded in August 1914 as an artillery repair workshop. In April 1918, it became the plant of agricultural machines and implements. That year about 110 people worked there, but by 1927 more than 900 workers were counted already. They manufactured plows, winnowers, threshers and horse drives. In 1927 the enterprise was renamed "Red Metallist", then in 1931 its profile shifted to machine-tool building, as it was transferred to the People's Commissariat of Machine-Tool Industry. First machines were produced in early 1932. In November 1935 the plant was named after S.M.Kirov while the old name "Red Metallist" faded away sometime after. Now it is called JSC "VISTAN".
There are known covers from the 1930's, both with the old name "Red Metallist", and the newer one "Kirov Plant", as well as a transitional version with the inscription like this: "z.Chirvony Metalist imya Kirova g.Viciebsk". All of them are written in Belarusian. A small-size hatch pictured here equals 54 cm in diameter and bears the signature "Zavod Kirova, Viciebsk".

Dimitrov Plant (Mogilev)

This foundry workshop was created in 1912 on Dnieper Avenue by the merchants Mazya and Aranzon. Before the revolution it became a cast-iron and boiler plant and belonged to "Association of the Brothers Mazya & Aranzon". It was engaged in the installation of mills and distilleries, manufacture of tools, production of explosives (for the WWI). In 1918, the plant was nationalized and gradually expanded, repaired cars, mastered the production of plows, harrows, spare parts for farmer machinery, threshers, silos, horse drives. By 1921 it was stopped because of extreme dilapidation.
In 1923 it was relaunched under the name "Red Revivalist" (Bel. "Chirvony Adradjenets"). There was about 29 workers. In 1935 the name of Georgi Dimitrov, the senior Bulgarian communist, was adopted. The plant shifted to the production of electrical motors and pumps, then focused on airplane motors by 1940, evacuated as the war came and rebuilt in 1946, receiving a new name: "Strommashina". New buildings were constructed. The enterprise began to produce machines for building materials industry, automatic lines for roof slate production, as well as brick, ceramics, asbestos-cement pipes, later mastered serial production of elevators. These products were exported to many countries of the world.

Other covers with inscriptions:

1. Marked with "Д" ("D" - drain, probably). Age unknown, but most possibly pre-war.
2. "GAP VKPR" was found several times, made in 1930's, but what does this mean?
3. "MRK" - again, what is the meaning? Probably, the reduction of some department or trust. If not some pre-revolution initials, even.
4. "Glavstroimechanization's Plant, Saratov, 1941." All known hatches from this plant have the same year - the beginning of the Great Patriotic war. The plant was founded in 1931. The design itself is typical for several pre-revolution Saratov factories, but in Moscow such a thing is rare wonder.

1. The compartment-plate cover with the name of the Moscow "Technostroy" bureau, which operated in the early 1920's ("everything for central heating, water supply and sewage"). Found in Naro-Fominsk - the cover survived the Nazi offensive in 1941 when the surrounding houses were laid to ruins (and later reconstructed).
2. Now completely disappeared Blagusha foundry & mechanical plant (owned by Leikin brothers) was a small enterprise in the historical district of Blagusha, next to the modern Izmaylovskoye Highway. Worked until 1929, then was liquidated.
3. A compartment-plate cover bears the words (in pre-reform letters): "Society of the SPb Cast-Iron & Pipe-Casting Plant, 1908". It travelled from St. Petersburg. The foundry had 3 boilers and 400 workers in 1908. There is an ad from 1899.
4. In Marxistskaya street a cover is labeled "Meat-processing plant". A special pipeline for sausages, maybe? The meat plant in question was founded in 1931 on the site of the former city slaughterhouses, themselves built in 1886-88 by the city headman N.Alekseev. On December 31, 1933, the Moscow Meat-Processing plant became fully operational; a year later it was named after the Commissar of Trade, A.Mikoyan.

1, 2. The enormous and very convex hatches produced by PAVIAT ("ПАВИАТ") - the Aviation College in Perm.
3. A rotund cover branded with mysterious "L K-K" abbreviation. Found in Lubertsy and the nearby town of Kotelniki.
4. Enigmatic big covers with "К.З." (K.Z.) letters are found in Podolsk, around the cottages of 1926.

1. The cute small cover made in typical North-Caucasian circular & waffle fashion, probably in 1930's. It reads "Mech. plant Pyatigorsk". Found near an old sanatorium in Kislovodsk.
2. Expressive bulging cover marked "GTZ Nalchik". GTZ is the Hydro-turbine plant in Nalchik (later Mashine-building plant), the capital city of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic.
3. A small unnamed hatch of the typical local shape found in Pyatigorsk region, near a fountain of the famous Semashko mud baths in Yessentuki, constructed in 1915.
4. A gem from Nizhny Novgorod - water supply cover issued by the plant "Felzer & Co", which was founded in Riga in 1873. It was the leading enterprise in Diesel motor production, also made steam equipment, boilers, metal-processing machines and cast iron. In 1915 it was evacuated due to the impending war front and reassembled near Nizhny Novgorod. Since 1922 the plant was renamed "Dvigatel Revolutsii" and soon produced first Soviet Diesels. The manhole covers is marked "1922" but still has pre-reform letters and name.

1. Many of those covers with "YaK" ("ЯК") letters are found in the town of Krasnogorsk, around the districts built in 1930's. Wrong time and wrong place - these manholes were meant for the pre-revolution (and early Soviet) sewer system in the town of Yaroslavl. How did they travel here?
2. The Ivanovo "SNABGRES" cover. A pre-war product made by some plant called "IEMZ" in Ivanovo. Snabgres was bureau for operative supply of the regional electric stations, namely, the Ivanovo GRES, which was constructed in 1927-1931.
3. The pre-revolution hatch was preserved in Yessentuki: "Chug. Lit. Zavod Novocherkassk." The central plate provides more detailed inscription: "A.Minenkov's iron foundry in Novocherkassk". Arkady Vasilyevich Minenkov (1849-1910) was a mining engineer and industrialist who participated in the development of ore and coal deposits. In 1888, together with the engineer V.A.Otto, he acquired the foundry from Karl Herzberg in Novocherkassk (founded in 1880). In the 1893 reference book it was named the Herzberg Plant, but in the 1903 ad it was already "the mechanical and cast-iron foundry of mining engineers A.V.Minenkov and V.A.Otto (formerly Herzberg's)", located on Slavianskaya Str. near the station. It manufactured plows, mining machines, pumps, trolleys (that is, mining equipment) and "all sorts of iron and copper casting." The cover design was also used by other plants of Novocherkassk and Rostov-on-Don. Shortly after the revolution, the plant went off.
4. A small sized "Alshenetsky" cover in Samara. The construction technician A.I.Alshenetsky signed an agreement with the City Council in April 1906, according to which a network of cesspools was to be constructed in the courtyards along the central streets of the city. But in 1907, the works were stopped - instead, a citywide sewage system was created in Samara by another contractor, but some work has already been done, and the nominal covers remained.

1. The canalisation cover labeled "A.I.Bychevsky in Kaluga" ("А.И.Бычевскiй въ Калугѣ") is found in several locations in the town of Kaluga. The cast-iron and mechanical foundry owned by Aleksandr Ivanovich Bychevsky, founded around 1883, was located in Venskaya (now Tulskaya) Street and is now long gone, only the former administration building still stands.
2. Small cover labeled "Ц.М.К." (Ts.M.K.) in Kaluga. Nothing useful can be said about it.
3. The dedicated classic manhole from the town of Kashira, marked "G.K.R.E.S" - that is, the Kashira State Regional Electric Station, built in 1920's together with the settlement for workers. That's where these covers lay.
4. "Voroshilovsk ITK 1941" in Samara. In those years, the name of Marshal K.Voroshilov was appointed to several towns in the USSR. But "ITK" means the corrective-labor colony, so it could mean the nearby town of Berezniki where the appropriate ITK was. In 1930's they tried to rename this town into Voroshilovsk and even used both designations for some time, but the decision was finally dropped.

"Engineer F.I.Platts & Co"

The company "Engineer F.I.Platts and Co." was a large and well-known sanitary bureau in the beginning of the 20th century that engaged in the installation of waterworks, sewage and heating systems. In 1904-1905 it was located in Odessa and was known under the name of the Trading House "John Platts and Co", whose members were John Platts and Mikhail Frenkel. In 1906-1909, the company carried out the construction of a water supply system in Yekaterinoslav (commissioned by the Aleksandrovsky Plant of the Bryansk Society, executed jointly with the engineer Sergey Gander). There still remain some artifact manhole covers with the inscription "The Nizhne-Dneprovsky Furnace Plant" (this plant existed until 1921).
The Platts company was engaged in construction and design mainly in the southern regions of Russia, in the Crimea (towns of Alupka and Yalta), in the Donbass (Ukraine), the city of Yekaterinoslav (future Dnepropetrovsk), in Mariupol, Pyatigorsk and even in Moscow (but not a single hatch has survived here). In the catalog of the South Russian exhibition of 1910, their advertisement can be found, where the company is called "Eng. F.I.Platz and Co".
In 1913, the Trading House was referred to as "Platts F.I. and Gander S.V." In 1909-1910, their main office was located in Yekaterinoslav in Kazachya Street and then in Filosofskaya Street, 46 (the house built in 1910 survived and is now known simply as "the Platts house").

1. An old cover with the inscription "P.G.V." (means "Pyatigorsk urban waterworks"). Below is the inscription: "Sanitary and Technical Bureau, Engineer F.I.Plats and Co., Yekaterinoslav". Pay attention to the built-in small inspection lid: in Eastern Europe, something similar is used even now for telephone (in Hungary and Poland it's most common: a micro-hatch in the middle of a big concrete cover slab).
2. Another Platts cover from Pyatigorsk.
3, 4. An admirable cover from Platts and Co in Kislovodsk, designed like a bottle plug, covering the manhole from above. The central inscription "VLK. Zh.D." means the Vladikavkaz railway. In 1914 the Platts bureau stroke a deal to construct waterworks and facilities for the Kislovodsk branch of that railway. Obviously, this batch of covers was originally part of that contract. More than hundred years have passed, and their quality is still perfect.

The cover from Kaliningrad, formerly Konigsberg, made by "Odinwerk Maschinenfarbik und Giesserei", the foundry created in 1922 by notorious German businesman Hugo Stinnes. After his death the plant was listed as owned by Fritz Bartlick & Horst Rögler, and located in Aweider Allee 59/65 until the city passed to the Soviet Union. Other photos from Kaliningrad, including descriptions of old manhole covers, can be seen on the city's page, though it's in Russian.


Many old manholes don't offer names of their manufacturers. And some, especially those made before the GOSTs, often have no identifying marks whatsoever. This makes them uninteresting, barely more than just metal slabs. And then there are some that are marked, but their message is just several abbreviated letters and thus proves completely inexplicable. The Soviet authority loved to use such bureacratic language everywhere, sometimes mixed with overwhelming secrecy. So while most goods were marked by producers, many of those marks lost their meaning long ago. For the unmarked manhole covers, you need help from the inner voice of intuition, the experience of a real professional just to identify their probable age (post-war, pre-war or maybe pre-revolution). To uncover the markings it takes much wild guessing and net surfing and browsing of old documents.
There are most prominent examples of the nameless Moscow covers:

These are typical, but rare pre-war designs with a round notch adorned with various unintelligible sets of letters. The first photo shows the codifier: namely, the manhole signed by artel "Metallist" from the town of Postyshevo (Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine). The artel was renamed in 1934 after the communist P.Postyshev. Shortly after he became enemy of the state and was executed in 1938, so the town and the artel were promptly renamed again. So the time range seems 1934-1938.

There are six total pages, including those for postwar and modern manhole covers of Moscow, but they are Russian-only.
The second page, composed from selected photos of post-WWII covers, is available in English.