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City Play: Section guide

• City Play home
• Acknowledgements

Featured excerpts
• Winter fun
• Living dangeroulsy
• Stoops
• On the roof

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What's a stoop? Next


"The New York rowhouse," writes Charles Lockwood in Bricks and Brownstones, "...incorporated several architectural features peculiar to the city. The first-floor parlors rose anywhere from three to twelve feet above the street on a high basement, and therefore, a flight of steps known as a 'stoop' was necessary to reach the front door."

Men arm wrestling
1941: Arm wrestling in Harlem, Manhattan
(Andreas Feininger, courtesy of the New York Historical Society, NY)

The term derives from the Dutch stoep; in the Netherlands it was used to raise the main floor of the house in areas subject to flooding. The stoop persisted in Dutch New York, not as a flood measure but, as architectural historian Andrew Dolkart argues, because it provided a liveable, partially above-ground basement in a city which even in the nineteenth century was becoming pressed for space. Although they did exist elsewhere, "nowhere was the stoop as universal a feature or on so grand a scale as in New York."

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Taken from City Play, copyright ©1990. Used with permission by Streetplay.com.

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