In the 1830s, the emerging middle class of New York wanted a classier looking building material. They found it in brownstone, a brown-colored sandstone located at nearby quarries in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania and Portland, Connecticut.
The Portland Brownstone Quarries had the benefit of being located on the Connecticut River, which was a fairly quick boat ride to New York.
Brownstone was relatively affordable, aesthetically pleasing and easy to carve. Manhattan and Brooklyn became dotted with the earth-coloured stone.
The Hummelstown quarry shut in 1929 and the larger Portland quarry soldiered on until the 1940s, when a major flood closed the business.
In the mid-1990s, a geologist named Mike Meehan reopened a non-flooded portion of the Portland quarry, slicing chunks of brownstone off a wall about six metres high (20 feet) high and almost 200m long (650 feet).
Sadly, The New York Times reports that after nearly 20 years, Meehan has mined the last of the remaining accessible brownstone. To excavate the rest is not commercially viable.
Some stone fabricators have begun to hoard the stuff.
?We?re all scrambling to grab that stone,? said George Heckel of Pasvalco, stone fabricators in New Jersey. ?If you?re thinking about achieving the look and feel of a New York City brownstone, you?re not going to get that anymore.?
Sources: Evolve, The New York Times