Sesame Street is over a half-century old!

Sesame Street's set is based on a typical Harlem brownstone neighborhood. Brownstones are a type of townhouse that are mainly brick but have sandstone facades. They became popular in the 1800s and today are an iconic image of New York.

Seasame street buildings

Sesame Street's set is based on a typical Harlem brownstone neighborhood.

The stone was mainly provided by the Portland Brownstone Quarry which operated for 300 years until it closed in 2012. It was on the Connecticut River which made shipping easy. Portland, Connecticut, is named for Portland, England, a place famous for its quarries.

Steam-powered machines in the 1800s allowed the sandstone to be cut and shaped faster and more cheaply than ever before, making it affordable - significantly cheaper than stones like granite or marble. The stone is pink when cut but turns brown as it weathers.

Brownstones have their distinctive stoops - a word that comes from the Dutch word for stair: "stoep" - to raise their front doors above the horse manure and filth of city streets in the 1800s. The Dutch used stoops to raise main floors above flood waters.

Seasame street cast

Sesame Street's cast gathered on a stoop.

Some brownstones have faces carved into them for decoration - celebrities, mythical characters and even building owners. Sandstone is relatively easy to carve because it's a soft rock but it also absorbs water, so detailed carvings like faces can wear away in time.

Seasame street building carvings

Brownstone carvings.

While Sesame Street's set was designed to show a racially-diverse, working class neighbourhood, many NewYork brownstone neighbourhoods have been gentrified and brownstones often sell for $10 million+. Not exactly Oscar's trash can!