Brownstone, Townhouse, Rowhouse Differences

by | Last updated Jul 13, 2020 | General Architecture, Houses, New York City

The terms townhouse, brownstone, and rowhouse are often used interchangeably but they actually all mean different things.


  • Townhouse
  • Brownstone 
  • Rowhouse


What is a Townhouse?

A townhouse is an attached house or rowhouse located in a city or town. These are typically narrow homes that are attached to other townhouses or buildings on 1 or 2 sides. A townhouse can be attached to buildings that are not row houses as well. Townhouses historically often shared a bearing wall with their neighbors called a party wall.


What is a Brownstone?

A Brownstone is a townhouse made of a brown sandstone. These are very common in New York City. It is a common misconception to call all Townhouses Brownstones but this is incorrect. Only townhouses made of the characteristic brown sand stone that was commonly used are brownstones. If they are made of brick or some other material they are just a townhouse.


What is a Rowhouse?

A row house is a house that is built in a series. Rowhouses and townhouses are essentially the same thing. One could have a townhouse that is not part of a row of houses but with that exception they will normally be the same.


Brownstone vs Townhouse

A brownstone is a type of townhouse made of a brown sand stone that was commonly used to build these types of homes. Townhouses can be built of any material many were made of brick. If it is made of brick it is a townhouse but not a brownstone. So brownstones are townhouses but not all townhouses are brownstones.

Townhouse vs Rowhouse

Row houses are townhouses but not all townhouses are rowhouses. Rowhouses are a group of houses built with attached walls in a row. A house would then have two houses attached on either side if it is a rowhouse, and the houses on the ends would have 1 house attached to it. If you built a house in a city attached to two building that are not houses then it would be a townhouse but not a rowhouse.

Brownstone vs Rowhouse

A brownstone can be a type of rowhouse but not all rowhouses are brownstones. A rowhouse made of the brown sand stone that characterizes a Brownstone would be called a Brownstone. all other row houses are just called rowhouses and townhouses if they are made of any other material.


Thank you for reading our blog post on the different Between a Brownstone, Townhouse, and Rowhouse.

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Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.