I remember 30 plus years ago when my wife and I were looking for our first home my wife had a couple of basic features she wanted in a home.
One of those items was a front porch. And I’ll admit I wanted one as well.
Well, we are still living in the first house we bought 33 years ago, and alas, we’ve never had a front porch
We fell in love with our house and the neighborhood as soon as we saw it, and we feel the same way about the house and the neighborhood today as we did back then. So not having a front porch was not, and has not, been a deal-breaker.
But that does not mean we have given up on our desire to have a front porch.
When we talk about possibly moving when we retire, we tell each other that a porch would be a high priority.
My wife’s sister’s family has a wonderful front porch; it’s a great a place for the family to gather, and to greet neighbors as they walk past the house.
For me, I think what I would enjoy most about having a front porch would be just sitting there during a good thunderstorm or curling up with a good book.
Front porches seem like a throw-back to a kinder, gentler way of living, and a way of getting to know your neighbors and fostering a greater sense of community.
However, a story in today’s Wall Street Journal by reporter Adrienne Gaffney talks about the rise and fall of front porches.
Renee Kahn, a historic preservationist and retired art history professor who, with the architectural designer Ellen Meagher, wrote the 1990 book “Preserving Porches,” explains that the porch became possible after the Industrial Revolution when manufacturing made prefabricated parts easy to come by. The growth of leisure time in the 1800s made the idea of a place to relax and socialize particularly appealing.
Porches became a staple of Southern architecture in part because of the respite they provided from stifling heat.
But, starting with the invention of the automobile, it became less attractive to sit outside, according to architect and University of Miami professor Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. “The fumes, the noise. Up until then, you could sit on a porch at night and chat with your neighbors. It was social. It was pleasant,” she says. Once autos showed up, people began building side porches instead of front porches, she says, but then “with air conditioning and television, the whole thing disappears all together. That marks the end of the porch.”
Professor Plater-Zyberk believes that the front porch fuses a connection between homeowners to their neighbors and those passing by on the street.
Ms. Kahn notes that she does not see porches anymore on the new buildings that are going up and if they’re there, nobody sits on them.
She advocates that existing porches never be removed from homes.
“My analogy is, you take a porch off of the front of a house and it’s like shaving off somebody’s eyebrows. It’s a key form of showing expression.”
So there you have it, porches are like eyebrows; they are a key form of expression.
So I’ll take it as a good omen that my wife and I still have our eyebrows, that must be a sign that we’ll have our porch someday.
But the analogy also makes me wonder what Andy Rooney’s front porch must have looked like.