Charles Lockwood, King of the Brownstones, Dies at 63

We were deeply saddened to wake up to the news this morning that Charles Lockwood, the man who put brownstones back on the map when he penned the first edition of his classic Bricks and Brownstone book, had died at the early age of 63 of cancer. The publication of Lockwood’s doorstop of a book in 1972 coincided with (and helped to fuel) the renewed interest in the late-19th century rowhouses that define the Brooklyn landscape. The Times noted Paul Goldberger’s comment in the introduction to the 2003 edition in its obituary this morning: “Bricks and Brownstone” gave the row-house revival “a kind of moral impetus, making it clear how much genuine architectural and urban history lay within these buildings, and how much the row houses of New York are, in fact, the underlying threads of the city’s urban fabric.”

Back in 2005, shortly after launching Brownstoner, we managed to make contact with Charlie, who was as excited as could be that somebody had named a website after his favorite architectural form. We met that winter at a sushi place in Williamsburg and he came to dinner later that year at our recently-renovated brownstone in Clinton Hill. In addition to an interest in brownstones, we shared an alma mater. He was an eminently more interesting dinner guest than we’ll ever be, though, with his encyclopedic knowledge of a whole host of architectural and historical topics and a sense of humor and energy to match. A real pleasure to spend time with.

Longtime readers will remember that Charlie wrote several guest posts back in the early days of the site, lending a much needed dose of credibility to the fledgling enterprise. Here’s his first Q & A in 2005 and here’s the kick-off to another series he wrote for Brownstoner.com in 2007. Looking through our inbox this morning, we were sorry to see an email from him less than a year ago that somehow got lost in the shuffle and we failed to reply to.

What a great loss.

14 Comment

  • stuyheightsarch

    Great guy… Sorry to hear this news….

  • RIP. My condolences to his family.

  • This is sad news. I was thrilled to track down Bricks and Brownstone many years ago on eBay. I couldn’t part with it even after I received the reissue as a gift. RIP.

  • This is sad. I remember, a very long time ago, around 1980, I bought “Bricks and Brownstone” back when it was a paperback with no color photos, a book that soon went out of print. I also bought his “Manhattan Moves Uptown”, a fascinating history of Manhattan, from both an architectural and historical perspective. At the time, I was working on Reade St, near Chambers, and the history of that little area alone was just mesmerizing to me. I was hooked, and have been ever since, on the history of our city, and how architecture contributes to a city’s history. He helped shape the direction my writing has taken.

    When I bought “Bricks and Brownstones”, we were looking at houses in Harlem, and his book helped identify styles, interior floor plans, and the reasonings behind row house configuration. There was no other book like it, and there still isn’t.

    When our house hunting turned to Brooklyn, the book came alive, as there was so much more variety of styles here, and many of the neighborhoods he speaks of were easily accessible for walks. Then I lent the book to someone who never gave it back, and because it was out of print, I was out of luck.

    Fast forward, on one of those “important” birthdays, one of my closest friends, an architect, gave me the new Rizzoli edition, a hard cover, tabletop book, chock full of color photographs. Lockwood was back! Since then, I’ve become Montrose Morris, and the book is one of the three or four I consult all the time. I’ve even been fortunate to have been in at least one of the private houses featured in the book. Who knew that would ever happen?

    Charles Lockwood, thank you, and may your house in heaven be the brownstone of your choice.

  • I was amazed to see that he wrote ‘Bricks and Brownstones” while still in college! What a talent. My condolences to his husband and family.

  • Sad news; the original version of “Bricks and Brownstones” was a constant reference during our house hunt (along with the more obviously dated “You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Own a Brownstone”).

    I had no idea that Lockwood was so young!

  • Sad news; the original version of “Bricks and Brownstones” was a constant reference during our house hunt (along with the more obviously dated “You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Own a Brownstone”).

    I had no idea that Lockwood was so young!

  • Sorry to hear the news. My prayers are with his family.

    Great book .. nothing else like it.

  • Marauder

    I have the book, paid $60.00 online for it. Loved every last page in it. Great pictures and drawings, a wealth of information.

    My condolences to his family.

  • NeoGrec

    I went on a Charles Lockwood walking tour of Chelsea rowhouses a few years back (Municipal Arts Society sponsored?). He was a sweet guy who carried his expertise very lightly. He took us into a brick townhouse under renovation where he was consulting the new owners on historically autehntic details. It was a rare 30 footer. What fun to see inside. I spoke to him briefly about Brooklyn brownstones and I gathered he had once owned a house in Fort Greene, possibly on South Oxford or South Portland, maybe in the 1970s, and done almost all the renovation/restoration work himself and with young friends. What a sad loss.

  • Please see Building of the Day for pictures and an idea for memorializing Charles Lockwood.

  • I’m sorry to hear the news. My condolences and prayers go out to his family.

  • Five years ago Assemblywoman Joan Millman introduced a bill #5823 to amend the property tax law in such a way as to foster the restoration, renovation and owner-occupancy of Lockwood’s brownstones. The idea was to create a new, much lower taxed category for owner-occupied brownstones with four apartments and thus help in the recapturing of this fabulous resource of Brooklyn’s brownstone housing. As it stands now, the law puts such buildings into an apartment house category of up to 10 units. The result is extremely high taxes which add substantially to the burden of brownstoners and often doubles or more the tax compared to brownstone with three units. The Millman Bill went no where, at the time in 2007. But perhaps the times are ripe now for such a proposition, (Levin and Squadron, we hope you are listening) and this could be a most fitting tribute to Charles Lockwood.
    It could very appropriately be called the Lockwood Law for Brownstone Revival. Brooklyn alone has over ten thousand of these three, four or five story buildings. The potential for additional, affordable housing and for the preservation of the human scale of these homes is vast. MartinLSchneider@aol.com

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  • Five years ago Assemblywoman Joan Millman introduced a bill #5823 to amend the property tax law in such a way as to foster the restoration, renovation and owner-occupancy of Lockwood’s brownstones. The idea was to create a new, much lower taxed category for owner-occupied brownstones with four apartments and thus help in the recapturing of this fabulous resource of Brooklyn’s brownstone housing. As it stands now, the law puts such buildings into an apartment house category of up to 10 units. The result is extremely high taxes which add substantially to the burden of brownstoners and often doubles or more the tax compared to brownstone with three units. The Millman Bill went no where, at the time in 2007. But perhaps the times are ripe now for such a proposition, (Levin and Squadron, we hope you are listening) and this could be a most fitting tribute to Charles Lockwood.
    It could very appropriately be called the Lockwood Law for Brownstone Revival. Brooklyn alone has over ten thousand of these three, four or five story buildings. The potential for additional, affordable housing and for the preservation of the human scale of these homes is vast. MartinLSchneider@aol.com

    Edit
    Reply