The next time you walk by one of the city’s beautiful brownstones, you may want to take an extra moment to appreciate it. The New York Times recently reported that the last local brownstone quarry in Portland, Connecticut would be using up its final pieces of the iconic rock in October. Although architects rarely use brownstone anymore, the news still makes it feel like the end of an era.
Brownstone is actually just brown colored sandstone, but was singled out as a favorite by architects and builders in the early 1800s because it was easy to carve. The decorative brownstone homes that line some streets in Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan actually only use the stone on the facades of these buildings, and rely on much more structurally sound brick for the remainder.
Portland Brownstone Quarries was originally opened in the 1990s by Mike Meehan, and was known to be the best in the world, with a better reputation than many quarries in Britain, China and Utah. After 20 years, Meehan has decided to close the quarry and retire, giving up the lease to the almost depleted land.
Most brownstone sourced in the US in recent years has been used for restoration projects rather than for new projects. As you might have guessed, most new buildings in New York are glass and steel, but the fact that we’ve run out of the brownstone that we’ve come to know and love makes the iconic buildings all the more precious.
Images ©Jay Woodworth