Brooklyn to Build First Actual Brownstone in Almost 100 Years

04/08/2011 1:43 PM |

The vacant lot on Cranberry Street where the new brownstone will be built
  • The vacant lot on Cranberry Street where the new brownstone will be built

Brooklyn may be famous for its iconic brownstones, but a new building made of brown sandstone hasn’t been built in decades—maybe even a century. That’s about to change: the designer of a new townhouse in Brooklyn Heights will be sourcing his stone from the same Connecticut quarry used by 19th Century architects, the New York Post reports. Brownstone had its heyday in the Civil War era and after—Victorians were partial to earthtones, and it was cheap, allowing settlers in the new suburban frontier of Brooklyn to build large homes on a relatively low budget. “These were like the first McMansions and this was the first urban sprawl,” a historian told the Post. “People wanted stone for their houses and the better stone was too expensive.”

By World War I, brownstone went out of style: the light color of limestone became de rigueur, and weather damage to brownstone caused by poor extraction methods and shoddy construction gave it a bad reputation that proponents say it doesn’t deserve. “With our knowledge of brownstone today and how to cut and handle it properly,” that historian said, “we could probably build a better brownstone today that we could in the 19th-century.” We’ll see about that, won’t we!

In the meantime, not all Heights residents are won over by the historicity. “Unfortunately this part of the neighborhood is not dominated by brownstone buildings,” a commenter writes at Brooklyn Heights Blog. “There’s not a single brownstone on the block. It’s all brick and frame houses. This building is already going to stick out (literally) because it’s over-sized for the block, and the choice of materials will make it look out of place even more.”