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Building Moxie Archive: Formstone :: BMoxies 1st Ever Photo Week – Day 2 (the Polyester of Brick)


For more information on “Photo Week,” please see yesterday’s post.

AKAPolyester of Brick or . . . Formstone

Location:  Baltimore, MD (Canton, 21224)

In This Photo:

Generically known as “formstone,” this concrete-type material and technique appears primarily in the Eastern part of the US. It was applied widely from the 1930s to the 1960s . In nature, it is a “stamped stucco.” It remains on the street-facing exteriors of many (row)homes in Baltimore, Maryland.  But as many of Baltimore’s urban areas experienced renewal in the late ’90s-early ’00s it became the norm to remove the then outdated finish.  I have heard it said that formstone spread fervently as a band-aid fix for the “cheap brick” used in the construction of many rowhomes.  This is especially true for the city’s more “working class” neighborhoods.


Code Enforcement Office, Southeast District

Additional Information:

We own the property in this photo, and while originally a butcher’s shop — it is now a rental.   Jen bought it before we met, but it was/is still technically our first house. I found this photo conveniently placed on (the city’s “one stop shop for housing issues”).  I found myself there *ahem* most mistakenly charged with a trash crime.  Yep! (And you can see a glimpse of the cans in question just down the alley.)

The same week (this Wednesday) we are scheduled in court for this matter. We have coincidentally begun the long-planned project of removing that pictured formstone. (You can see some of its buckling in the upper left hand corner of the photo.) While I’m more fond of the look and significance than others, formstone, though at times elegant, was really a pretty poorly thought out solution.  In most cases, applications did not incorporate a place for water to weep . . . hence sometimes leading to significant damage to the “stone” itself or to a building’s substrate.  The cost of removal (from a typical two-story rowhome and taking appropriate re-finishing measures) varies widely. But in most cases, it runs usually from about $4000 to $6000 — more if there is lead paint present. This one job however that increases in cost when replacing related, architectural elements.

The Story Behind Formstone & John Waters’ Little Castles: A Formstone Phenomenon (<< John Waters is credited with calling formstone — “the Polyester of Brick”.)


Thanks and comments welcome. ~jb

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