Message - Re: the American Front Porch

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Posted by  Paul Malo on September 16, 2002 at 17:37:28:

In Reply to:  the cultural significance of the american traditional architecture posted by BRUTUS on September 16, 2002 at 15:41:39:

The "porch" was a relatively modern notion, appearing in the late nineteenth century. There had been "stoops" (as the Dutch called small roofed platforms outside an entry) in Colonial times. There even had been a few porticos recalling classical models, as seen at Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington, the first US president. But they were not "porches" in the sense of the later nineteenth century. Inns were more likely than houses to have early porches, particularly two-story, providing second-story, open-air galleries. Since there was no air conditioning, and sleeping rooms were usually crowded, the upper porch provided an option for visitors to sleep as well as sit in cooler air.

Early porches on houses were conceptually open terraces rather than raised platforms that required some protective enclosure. Called a "piazza" or an "umbrage," we might consider early versions "decks," being low to the ground so as to require no railings.

The "porch" so familiar to us now in America really only became popular in the later nineteenth century. As ground floors were raised to allow windows into basements, the "piazza" required a railing to avert accidents. With more enclosure, the exterior deck became more of an external room.

Popularity of front porches lasted only into the Arts-and Crafts bungalow era. Even before that fad died with the Great Depression of the 1930s, front porches had become largely a lower-middle class suburban phenomenon. During the 1920s more fasionable, upscale houses became more "traditional," having no front porches (although possibly a Colonial "stoop"). Any real porches usually were moved to the side of the house, to allow development of a more traditional fašade.

The front porch really was only a phenomenon of four or five decades and even then was largely a feature of middle-class suburban houses.

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