Boston’s Boot Scrapers

No, this is not some weird amphibian found only in Boston. Something I’ve noticed walking around Boston’s Beacon Hill (a neighborhood that has existed in one form or another since the founding of the city in the early 1620s) are these weird metal things on people’s door steps–like this:


This is a boot scraper. Back in the days of yore, when streets were covered with ‘mud’ (a euphemism for a combination of dirt, dog, human, horse and pig shit), you certainly didn’t want this crap in your house. Hence, boot scrapers. There are actually many different kinds of boot scrapers. Here’s a curlycue one:

There are a bunch of fishtail inspired scrapers:

Here are two minimalist scrapers:

There are some that are incorporated into railings, like so:

Some of them are kind of ornate (and not entirely functional):

The his-and-hers set:

And, finally, you can see they are quite common:

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6 Responses to Boston’s Boot Scrapers

  1. gglobster
    gglobster says:

    Hah, that’s a very Old World thing, boot scrapers! I remember those from growing up in Brussels, they were everywhere (not just in fancy neighborhoods). My parents’ house had one too — every house on our street did, I think. Lots of them are still there, though some folks started removing them sometime during the nineties. They were awfully convenient for when you’d stepped in dog poop… But maybe that’s why people didn’t want them on their doorstep anymore — who wants passing strangers’ poop scrapings on their doorstep?

  2. APB says:

    Excellent post, really enjoyed it. Are you planning a series? Would upping blocks or hitching posts be next? I don’t think there are so many, but I wasn’t expecting to see this many scrapers, either.

  3. Penny says:

    Love this tour. Bravo! Sadly, many stand alone boot scrapers have fallen victim to snow shovels. The ones built into stair rails are the most likely to survive. Happy you found some of those.

  4. Joe says:

    Great post! I recognize a few of those from my BH days, but never had noticed the integrated railing ones. I’ll have to pay more attention next time I’m wandering. Thanks for the sharing.

  5. Talisker says:

    Good stuff. In the original Cambridge (UK) these are quite common in houses built before about 1900, and they have found a new purpose as convenient places to chain up a bicycle.

  6. frannyritchie – In September 2011, I followed my husband from Cambridge, MA to Cambridge, UK, because he got a sweet gig with Microsoft. The day before I left, my father said, "this is good - its an adventure. but be sure you bring snacks."
    frannyritchie says:

    I’ve been meaning to do one of these for Cambridge, UK! One of the colleges has animal shaped bootscrapers at the entrance. I disagree with Talisker, though – I rarely see cycles chained to them – people have special cycle hitching posts outside terrace houses for their bikes.

    Here’s a counterpart:

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