Ever notice those metal contraptions bookending the Faunce Steps? These masterpieces of metal-smithing are not simply ornamental. They have a name: boot scrapes. These simple items first gained popularity in 18th-century Europe, when wealthy pedestrians walked through muddy city streets cluttered with horse manure and sewage and then employed the scrape to avoid tracking filth into their homes. The French call boot scrapes decrottoirs, which literally translates to “excrement removers.” As a traditional New England town, and a metropolis in one of the original colonies, Providence boasts architecture with boot scrapes galore. Boot scrapes also lurk by Faunce House’s Waterman entrances, and near the doors of historic homes on College Hill.
Although boot scrapes tickle the fancies of antique dealers and historians alike, the modern pedestrian tends to overlook these artifacts. The odd modern pedestrian who does notice the boot scrape approaches it in a bewildered state.
Have no fear! We’ve reevaluated the boot scrape’s relevance in the modern world, and established the top five ways to usher these Brunonian boot scrapes into the 21st century.
1. An anchor for your Pilates exercise bands
Studies show that one should regularly perform activities that engage your hamstrings and glutes, and we all walk past Faunce each day, so why not incorporate the building and its regal boot scrapes into your workout regimen? Who needs the Nelly when you can do Pilates in front of everyone on the Main Green? By simply tying a Pilates exercise band around one of the building’s many boot scrapes, you can limber up in a matter of minutes. Can anyone say: stretching time?!