Brownstones - One NYC's Many Defining Attributes
Posted on September 6, 2016

Bohemia Blog by Agent Natalie Tess Sigurdsson



There are many things that come to mind when you think about the Big Apple, but there is one no more notable and visible than Brownstones. The specific style of housing is a staple in the city's architecture as they are scattered throughout the boroughs, but these timeless buildings have a history all their own.

The building process began in the early 1800's in the U.S., starting in Boston and later came to NYC in the mid 1800's. The houses are only fronted with this dark stone but are in reality built of brick. The reason being was that brick was not considered desirable at the time and the brownstone was easy to work with, was an affordable material and had a clean look.

Brownstones in NYC are of Italianate and Queen Anne Style and were originated in Great Britain. The key visual features of these styles are:

[caption id="attachment_6944" align="alignright" width="260"]Architecture-corbels Corbel[/caption]

• Projecting Eaves (edges of the roof that overhang the face of the wall) supported by corbels (imposing cornice structures).

• Pedimented windows and doors

• Tall first floor windows

• Angled bay windows

• Wrought-iron railings

• Cupolas

• Attics with a row of awning windows between the Eave brackets - low-pitched or flat

• Roofs


A Brownstone's main selling points are the historic details which include the crown moldings and embellished woodwork that decorate most of the inside of the structure. The layout is fairly standard as the interior is divided lengthwise into two parts, with about a third of it taken up by a staircase on one side and the remainder occupied by the living area while each room typically has a fireplace.
Once you walk up the exterior steps you land on what's called the Parlor floor, which displays large windows, often times Bay windows, which protrude from the outside wall.

The bedrooms are generally located on the upper floors and tend to have lower ceilings. The garden level is a few steps below ground and has even shorter ceilings of 7.5 or 8 feet in height. When these houses were originally built, this level was where the servants of the household would live, with a separate kitchen so that they could prepare meals for the family.

While the uses of brownstones has changed from being a single family dwelling into multi-family and apartment style living for New Yorkers, their architectural beauty has stood the test of time.
That is why many movies have and will be continued to been filmed in Brownstones. Here are just a few that might come to mind when:

169 E 71st : Breakfast at Tiffany's Townhouse
45 E 73rd : Carrie Bradshaw's (Sex and the City) Brownstone
38 W 94th : Panic Room

[caption id="attachment_6947" align="aligncenter" width="620"]Carries-House-Sex-and-the-City-620x300 Brownstone the fictional character Carrie Bradshaw lived in.[/caption]