Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”
Brownstone is a word that I’ve read hundreds of times, including twice in one day this past week. The second time was in a book that I plan to read to kids. I realized that, if they asked what it was, I wouldn’t have a satisfying answer. I know that it describes a style of house in New York City. But I don’t know what a brown stone (a rock? A type of brick?) is or what the houses actually look like.
Here are the two sentences, read this week:
From The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
The magnificent brownstones are aging and subdivided.
From Visiting Langstonby Willie Perdomo
Langston lived in a brownstone on Langston Hughes Place.
Wikipedia has an informative article about brownstone. The buildings are constructed from a brown stone, a type of sandstone. And the term brownstone is used to describe a rowhouse built of that stone that was constructed in many New York City neighborhoods. From the pictures, I recognize brownstones from movies and television shows set in New York. I see Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox flirting and fighting in You’ve Got Mail and Bert and Ernie frolicking on Sesame Street.
According to the Wikipedia article, Nero Wolfe, the fictional hero of Rex Stout’s mystery novels, lived in a New York brownstone. That explains why the fan site, The Wolfe Pack, has an excellent essay on Just What is Brownstone? This article addresses some controversy surrounding brownstones: Edith Wharton thought it an ugly stone, sandstone has predictable problems with wear, and a renewed interest in the architecture gives urgency to determining how best to handle these aging buildings.