New York Has Run Out of Brownstone

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Brownstones are an iconic part of the New York landscape, as defining a feature as the yellow cabs on the street or the towering office blocks that inhabit Manhattan. But times are changing, and the city's finally run out of its famed building material.

The New York Times reports that the last remaining brownstone quarry, opened in the 90s by a geologist named Mike Meehan in Portland, Connecticut, has mined its last. The Times explains:

Brownstone, which is really just a brown sandstone, is still quarried in a few spots around the world - including Britain, China and Utah - but stone fabricators and materials experts say that there is really nothing quite like the stone that comes from Portland [Conn.]...

After nearly 20 years at the quarry, Mr. Meehan said his company had extracted what it could from the quarry without making significant investments to get more. The land, which he leases, has been put up for sale. At 63, he said, he is ready to move on.


Initially finding popularity in the first half of the 19th century, brownstone was used to provide buildings with a more refined-looking facade. It's softness made it straightforward to carve, allowing designers to produce ornate facings for new houses with relative ease (brownstones are, in fact, brick buildings with a stone facing).

Realistically, the last remaining source of US brownstone was only ever used for restoration projects of expensive buildings, and there was never enough available to sustain future building works. It is, however, still a blow for New York architecture. [New York Times]


Image by S.Diddy under Creative Commons license