AskDefine | Define brownstone

Dictionary Definition



1 a reddish brown sandstone; used in buildings
2 a row house built of brownstone; reddish brown in color

User Contributed Dictionary



from brown + stone


  1. a variety of brown to red-brown sandstone once popular as a building material
  2. a row house built of brownstone, especially in New York City
    We tried to buy a Brooklyn brownstone that needed some work, but couldn't make the down payment.



Extensive Definition

Brownstone is a brown Triassic sandstone which was once a popular building material. The term is also understood to be a terraced house (rowhouse) clad in this material.

Brownstone dwellings

In Boston and New York City, a "brownstone" is understood to be a terraced house (rowhouse) clad in brownstone. These brownstone apartments typically have stairways which lead from the sidewalk to a second-floor apartment entrance, a design originally intended to avoid bringing in the mud and horse droppings commonly found at street level, a problem that existed when these apartments were built and horses roamed the streets. New York City brownstones tend to be found in certain older neighborhoods, which are perhaps most common in Brooklyn. For example, the neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant has the largest inventory of brownstones in the entire City of New York, followed closely by Park Slope. Many brownstones have been renovated in recent years, leading to (and/or as a result of) gentrification in areas like Park Slope, Bedford Stuyvesant and Fort Greene. On the popular 1980s-'90s American television program The Cosby Show, the affluent Huxtable family, the show's central characters, lived in a Brooklyn brownstone, and in the 1950s TV show I Love Lucy, the Ricardos lived in a converted Brownstone apartment building on New York's East 68th Street owned by their friends the Mertzes. More recently, Sex and The Citys protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw resided in a brownstone at a fictitious Upper East Side address in New York City. Philadelphia has an abundant number of brownstones. Due to urban renewal, brownstones are developing in Detroit as well.
In Chicago, a brownstone typically refers to a free-standing house, originally built for a single family, clad in brownstone. While many Chicago brownstones have subsequently been split into multiple rental or condominium units, many others remain single-family homes.
The term Brownstone may also be used as slang for heroin, particularly in the United States; "Mr. Brownstone" is a Guns N' Roses song about heroin use. This could be related to brownstone neighborhoods in Harlem where dealers were likely to live, as in the lyrics of the Velvet Underground song, I'm Waiting for the Man.

Notable types of brownstone

Apostle Island brownstone

Hummelstown brownstone

Hummelstown brownstone is extremely popular along the East Coast of the United States of America, with numerous government buildings from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and Delaware being faced entirely with the stone. The stone comes from the Hummelstown Quarry in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Hummelstown Quarry is the largest provider of brownstone in along the east coast. Typically the stone was transported out of Hummelstown through the Brownstone and Middletown Railroad or taken by truck up to the Erie Canal.

External links

brownstone in French: brownstone
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