Why We Have Stoops

July 27, 2017


It may be stinking hot outside, but at least the streets aren’t covered in horse manure… as was the case in late 1800s New York City. Recently a Redditor posted a page from Superfreakonomics, which recalled a time that five million pounds of manure was being dumped on city streets every day. In 2009 the New Yorker noted that it was “predicted that by 1930 horse manure would reach the level of Manhattan’s third-story windows.” And that is why stoops were so very necessary.

“In vacant lots, horse manure was piled as high as sixty feet. It lined city streets like banks of snow. In the summer time, it stank to the heavens; when the rains came, a soupy stream of horse manure flooded the crosswalks and seeped into people’s basements. Today, when you admire old New York brownstones and their elegant stoops, rising from street level to the second-storey parlour, keep in mind that this was a design necessity, allowing a homeowner to rise above the sea of horse manure.”
And with that manure came billions of flies, rats, and other vermin that were host to disease. So as you sit on your stoop and illegally drink a beer tonight, complaining about the incessant heat, think about how it could be so much worse.

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