The Brownstone isn’t a brownstone — but has its appeal: architecture review

H Holding Group's building isn't made of stone, although it boasts some nice touches

The Brownstone at 196 Macon Street (Photo: H Holding Group)
The Brownstone at 196 Macon Street (Photo: H Holding Group)

The beloved brownstone — that fixture of 19th-century Victorian New York — remains one of the defining features of the New York cityscape, particularly in Upper Manhattan and Brooklyn. The popularity of the brownstone is so great that, in recent years, some developers have been putting up entirely new ones from scratch, as though a sufficient supply did not already exist. But few developers have gone quite as far as H Holding Group, which just completed a five-story, 28-rental unit building called, appropriately, The Brownstone.

Located at 196 Macon Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the new building is not actually a brownstone. It is far too broad for that, covering as it does the equivalent of three brownstone lots. Also, it is not made of stone.

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And yet, given the name of the structure, H Holding has spruced up the The Brownstone’s façade with a fairly accurate version of all the tricks and ornaments of the genre. It has a dramatic cornice, supported by rows of consoles, as well as heavy lintel frames around the windows and triangular pediments around each of its three entrances. Finally, of the 9 bays of windows, three are graced with elaborate iron-work balconies, though these could support a plant, but not a person.

The general impression of the development overshadows the details, however. The building is four stories tall on the sides and five stories tall in the center, but the windows do not quite align, and the cornices on the sides seem to be at war with the windows and cornice of the central fifth story. Perhaps this is to be interpreted as a post-modern or deconstructivist touch of rebellion, but the result simply looks odd and inconsistent.

Still, the building in not without its appeal. Thankfully, the developer also decided to apply the brown stone hue throughout, rather than the two-tone look that was presented in some of the earlier renderings.