Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Front Porch

The front porch of homes was commonly used for socializing. Such things as shelling peas or shucking corn, took place on the front porch when friends and relatives came over to help. During the hottest time of the summer, some front porches that were screened, contained beds to sleep in. These were called "sleeping porches." The residents of the home would escape the heat of the upstairs bedrooms by sleeping on the porch in the summer.

Families spent time on porches in the evenings watching other people going for strolls, or waiting to see if someone would drop by. Everyone knew who their neighbor was. If someone moved in, neighbors knew who they were, who their kin were, and where they were from. New neighbors expected the old neighbors to drop by and would have felt very unwelcome if they didn't.

You could tell who was visiting who and who was courting who, by walking past the front porches of the houses. Some people think that the arrival of the automobile moved socialization from the front porch to the front seat of a car, and caused the demise of front porch life, and the front porch itself. With the arrival of the 20th century, many new houses were built completely without front porches. It is a pity, because the front porch allowed everyone to see what was going on in the neighborhoods. Young and old alike were entertained, and everyone was included in activities.

Go here http://www.slideroll.com/publish.php?s=3z6m81h0&browse=1&ref=0 and click on to see a little slideshow of paintings of front porches.

This site shows the rise and fall of the front porch in history:
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/am483_97/projects/cook/first.htm

As people begin really living at home more, the front porch is gaining popularity again. Some of the newly constructed homes are an imitation of the style of home that had front porches, and the effect is very beautiful. With the addition of front porches, it seems like the homes and neighborhoods are coming to life.

Be sure to click on these titles:

Origins of the American Front Porch
Stylistic Evolution
Popularization
Cultural Significance
The Decline
Recurrence in Modern Times

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE the things you write about Lady Lydia. They just really inspire me in my love and admiration for homemaking and homekeeping.
My husband just asked me what I was reading about on my blogs lately and I went into a 5 minute schpeel on all the different homemaking aspects of them and what I'm learning and I even read him several titles from your sidebar on recent posts-home scents, the linen closet, etc. and now I was about to read one on "the front porch." I'm sorry to say when I was done his head was drooping, his eyes were closed, and he was nodding off on me! LOL!!!! I guess my reading isn't all that interesting to HIM. :)
Oh, well....I'm lovin' it!!!
still lol.....

sarah said...

I love older houses with nice big front porches. (We live in one.)

You might be interested to know that in most houses, at least those of the Bungalow variety, the sleeping porch was actually an additional porch, on the back of the house, or off the second floor. During times of TB epidemics, many people slept on their sleeping porches for better health.

Your blog is such a blessing.

Sabine said...

Thank you for yet another interesting and informative article, Lady Lydia. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, where we had 'verandas' which, as the articles state, are another name for the same thing. Since I've been married we've never had a porch or veranda. It's sad that they went out of style. I wonder if sundecks and patios were meant to take over the function of providing an outdoor sitting area. More privacy perhaps? Or maybe they are just cheaper to build.

carlo*56 said...

I also see houses with porches as very homely places. They remind of a time wher people were good neighbors, where people stop by and give gifts during occasions. The change of the times has also brought a change in the designs of the house. One of the major change is the disappearance of the porch.

Lady_MSnow said...

This article is so true. I took a class in college that tackled this subject. We studied the house plans/layouts and most have the garage facing the road with only a small step up to the front porch. I am sure the automobile had some to do with it, but I also believe that TV and other electronic "marvels" plays a factor also. A lot of people come home, park the car, shut the garage door, and eat dinner in front of the TV. In my opinion people have just become "too busy" with running around to all sorts of obligations and such. Don't get me wrong....being involved is great, but I think it can be overdone. If I ever get a chance to build a home it will definately have a very large front porch!

plainandsimple said...

I really envy Americans their front porches, it's not something we have in the UK. I do remember the people in my nan's village sitting in their front gardens in the summer though. My nana would peel the potatoes in the garden and her neighbours would also be sitting out or doing one or two jobs...and yes, people did stop by. I those days it was the done thing to keep your front step really clean, with red lead. If I sat out in the front garden, peeling the spuds the neighbours would think I was nutty! I'm 33 years old, things have changed so much in 25 years.

Anonymous said...

This is very true. Both houses I lived in as a child don't have front porches, and they were very unwelcoming. The house my husband and I own right now does, albeit a narrow strip across the front that only has room for my potted plants. (That will change next spring, when I put those plants in the ground in front of the porch.)

There's something graceful and welcoming about a house with a front porch. In our town, those who don't have front porches tend to build them on, even on the shacks in the "poor" neighborhood. It has seemed odd to the city-slickers who come through ("Why waste the money on a porch when they need paint?"), but it comes from a neighborliness we have out here.

Alas, we don't get to use them most of the year, because of the heat, humidity, and the plague of skeeters o'er the land. But they definitely reflect a mentality...

So, right on target, Lady Lydia!

Mrs. Bartlett

Shannon said...

My house built in the 40's has a porch. I am not sure if it is original to the house, although I'm sure that it is. Today however it is enclosed which is very nice when the weather is perfect. With its southeast exposure it is unbearably hot in the summer and without heat it is just as unbearable in the winter.

I grew up in a trailer and my parents built a porch onto it, complete with built in benches on either side! Eventually my mom even built a boardwalk leading to the porch.

My daughter tells me today, she is 12, that her "dream house" will be complete with wrap around porch and shutters!

Shannon

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
My husband would love a front porch. I would too. We live in a cape, with a small area at the front door. But, we do have a fairly good size back porch, or deck. This past April we were able to expand the size of it. We have thoroughly enjoyed this expansion this past summer.
Only thing is, we don't sit out much once the sun goes down. Mosquitos are such a pain. We need some screening. We purchased one of those little pop up screened in tent like things. But, it takes up so much room on the porch in a weird inconvenient way, we didn't end up using it that much.
I am surprised a screened in porch section is not standard for homes in areas where we live with a lot of mosquitos.
Great post.

Anonymous said...

Good topic!

What I really miss is the gentle creaking of my grandma's porch swing; we have a "porch", but it's more of a covered stoop and not large enough for such a nicety. I think that in the States, as neighborhoods have become more transient in nature, and as yards have shrunk to the size of postage stamps, the backyard deck has replaced the front porch for socializing.

Anonymous said...

Many men come home and have their computer time reading the news and playing a game of some kind. If we had a lovely front porch I wonder if the computer chair would be empty. Eliza Jane

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,
We have a five foot by three foot front porch. Tiny little thing. Can't fit any chairs on it without blocking the front door. It is just a habit, in the summer season to just go out there and sit quietly on these front steps. We have a back porch, but, it is nice to sit in the front, as well. Then, in a little while, one or two or all of my children seem to find me, and I scoot over for them to sit down as well. And we just sit. Sometimes we are quiet, sometimes we talk. We live on a country road, so, we don't have a whole lot of passers by. This year, we do have one neighbor with a new dog that just cannot seem to stand the fact that we sit out there. It barks and barks and barks at us. The neighbor tries to stop the dog, but, it just keeps right on barking. We just ignore it! We refuse to be badgered off. LOL

Anonymous said...

i live in an American city, in a row home that was built in 1910. Every single one of my neighbors and i have porch furniture and most of us have plants of some sort on our porches. Many spring, summer, autumn evenings are spent just relaxing and talking to one another. Even sometimes in the winter..because we miss our porch parties.

Thank you for this lovely piece.

~laura

Spunky said...

When we were home searching I refused to consider a home without a front porch. So many modern homes leave them off in favor of a backyard deck. Not me. I savor my time on my porch. I'm a people watcher and I love getting to know my neighbors this way. People seem so much more willing to chat when you're already sitting on the front porch.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Check on the original article above, where I just posted a place for you to view a slideshow that I put together. It seems to go awfully fast...just watch it twice!!

annewithane65 (Kim) said...

I grew up in a home that had a front porch and a swing. I have many wonderful memories of time spent on this porch that I will always hold dear to my heart. It's sad to see so many new homes built these days without a lovely front porch.

Honey Cakes said...

I have MANY childhood memories including our front porch and back patio. Our porch sported a swing, a child's picnic table, and Adarondack Chairs. We would drape blankets over the railings for privacy when my siblings and I slept outside in the summer.

Many many times we had neighbors and friends and parties on the steps. It was like this all over the neighborhood (and this was the 80's and 90's). In the smaller communities, I have noticed some houses have porches equal to the size of the first floor. People will have a porch before they have a garage, and often times it is covered in chairs and cushions.

agodlyhomemaker said...

have you read "the sleeping porch" ? it's a child's book but it's wonderful! great post :)

Leslie said...

I grew up (during the 80's) living in a house with a front porch. I can remember summer evenings swinging on the porch swing with mom. She went to an all-girl college at which she was required to learn college songs. She would sing these to me while we swang (hmmm, is that right?). Anyway, all of our neighbors had swings and rockers on their front porches, too. We got to know them all really well, thanks to the front porch. I really miss that sense of community and closeness I had growing up.

the womom said...

I just found your blog tonight--it is beautiful.

We have a lovely front porch but don't use it nearly enough because we are on a rather busy street and haven't had the opportunity (funds) to build a small fence to enclose the front yard. I would love to spend time sipping coffee in the morning and chatting with the dog walkers while the kids help garden.
Where we live it's rare to have a porch--I feel quite lucky to have one.

Brenda said...

One of the things I love about our small house in the country is the front porch. I often have my quiet time sitting in the rocking chair on the porch in the morning. Lovely...

I enjoy your site very much.

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