Company News

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Brownstone

By Carroll Gardens Office | on March 20,2012 at 2:55PM

We at Brownstone Real Estate specialize in “Brownstone Brooklyn” properties. Clearly there is a theme emerging here. So what is this fabled stone that has lent its name to the classic homes dominating Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens?

Contrary to urban myth brownstone is not just cement colored with brown paint. Historically, brownstone is a type of sandstone possibly from the Jurassic period. That’s right; it’s from the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Brooklyn Brownstones were mainly clad in stone from Hummelstown, Pennsylvania or Portland, Connecticut.  The Hummelstown quarry is still going strong and provides materials for much of the restoration work done in Brooklyn.


Less expensive than marble, brownstone became a popular facing for brick townhouses owned by urbanites moving to Brooklyn in the late 1800’s.  The rich color comes from a high concentration of iron in the stone which turns from a reddish hue to a dark brown when exposed to the elements. Originally brick townhouses were clad with sandstone slabs, 4 to 6 inches thick. In the best examples of brownstone facing, the stone was artfully applied to look like one continuous elegant surface and accented by ornate carvings around the doors and windows.  These days, restoration is often achieved by applying a cement “skim coat” which is then covered with a brownstone stucco mixture. Brownstone was used for municipal and bank buildings all over the country, with Chicago and Philadelphia being the most notable concentrations outside of Brooklyn’s Brownstone Belt.


So now that we’ve debunked the “brown cement” myth, come on over and see these beautiful homes “in person.” We might even have one for you to live in!