The Autumn Of Brooklyn Brownstones


And the end of an era:

Most of New York City’s iconic brownstones, it turns out, were built using stone from the same quarry. Now, after centuries of intermittent mining, Portland Brownstone Quarries in Portland, Connecticut, has closed for business, and its inventory of precious rock is expected to run dry by the end of the month. Though brand-new brownstones aren’t exactly popping up by the dozen, preservationists value the Portland stone for maintaining an original look while restoring old buildings.

Rain Noe recounts how the stone came to dominate the look of many Brooklyn neighborhoods:

In the early 1800s most buildings in New York City were made of brick or wood. But sometime in the 1830s the economy started to bustle, enabling people to earn a little more scratch, and this emerging middle class wanted a classier-looking domicile.

Architects of the era kept building with brick, but sought a more refined-looking material to skin the buildings in. They found it in brownstone, a brown-colored sandstone located at relatively nearby quarries in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania and Portland, Connecticut. The Portland Brownstone Quarries had the added benefit of being located on the Connecticut River, which dumped directly into the Long Island Sound and was thus a fairly quick boat ride to building-hungry NYC. 

Brownstone was relatively affordable, aesthetically pleasing (at least to our eyes; Edith Wharton reportedly found it an eyesore), and best of all, easy to carve. Manhattan and Brooklyn became dotted with the earth-colored townhouses.

(Photo by Flickr user ethandb)