Boston Brownstone Living

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Those of us who live in Boston know brownstones very well. But if you’re thinking about relocating to this area, particularly from another region, it’s quite possible that you have no idea what a brownstone is and how its architecture differs from other types of structures.

What is a brownstone?

Most people associate brownstones with stately row houses of the 19th Century. They were originally built in the mid-1800’s in response to increased housing demands for the growing upper-middle class. Homes at the time were built of brick or wood, but homeowners wanted something more high-end. Brownstone, a type of sandstone, was chosen for its deep brown color, made possible by iron deposits in the stone. Over time, brownstones came to symbolize the growing affluence of the middle class – and they still do today.

Advantages of living in a brownstone

  • Architectural beauty: These homes are considered architectural prizes and are coveted by home buyers. Brownstones are unique in that they do not exist in most regions of the U.S.
  • One-of-a kind charm: Brownstone condos are unique, have old-fashioned charm (though many have been renovated with the most up-to-date, state of the art finishes and features) and are often located on urban tree-lined streets with sidewalks.  Some offer exposed brick walls, ornamental fireplaces and outdoor space, whether it’s a garden level patio, terrace or roof deck with city views.
  • Intimacy: Many of my clients prefer the intimacy of a small building with just a few units, where they’re more likely to get to know their neighbors, over the larger population in high-rises.
  • Home value: These homes tend to retain their value better than most, as demand has continued to increase over the years.

So, are there any caveats about brownstones? Just know that because brownstones are older buildings, repairs and updates could be required if they have not been done already. Also, many brownstones do not necessarily include elevators, so that may factor into your decision-making. Also, parking is more likely to be off-street behind the building, either full or tandem spaces, with garage parking a rarity.

Here in Boston, you can find brownstone condos in several neighborhoods throughout the city: the Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, Fenway and Kenmore Square, the South End and in South Boston. You can find them in Brookline and Cambridge, too.

What’s your take on brownstones?