Watching Storms from the Porch


A Facebook post by a friend the other day got me in a nostalgic mood. The post was about front porches and the happy memories they hold.

I have lived in a variety of houses and some had porches, some did not. Some had decks and those have become more or less the replacement for good, old-fashioned front porches. The kind of porches that aren’t just a stoop, but have room for multiple people, a chair, a wicker sofa, etc.

Architectural history

Historical trends in architecture affect the people who live in them. We live in the era of box-like abodes with little square carpets of lawn, expansive back decks and front porches so narrow you have to skooch across single file. Maybe it’s because air conditioned summers are our norm that people no longer request a deep, shady front porch to accommodate a lemonade break and catch an occasional breeze on a hot summer day.

Maybe, on the other hand, it’s because people are less social in their neighborhoods than they used to be. Strolling the sidewalks in the evening was a hallmark of years past, but with the advent of automobile culture people are more content to park the car in the garage that has moved from behind the house to the very front of the yard thereby symbolically cutting off the expression of friendliness that a big welcoming porch used to express.

Porch adventures

Whatever the case, I remember one summer day during a big storm in the Midwest. It was the porch of family friends. A group of us kids were huddled under the stone columns of the porch to wait out the thunder and lightning. We played games and watched the clouds gather. It was exciting to hear the booms and see the flashes of light from under the protection of the porch, better than being inside where you could only hear muffled reverberations.

Big, wide porches like that were a fortress for little kids in all the games we thought of to play. Climbing over the sides of stone railings during a dangerous mission in the Alps was only a sample of the fun things you could do. Scaling a column during the course of exciting archeological discoveries was another. Even better was when a kindly adult would bring out something tasty to eat as we dragged ourselves in from the Sahara.

My history takeaway is this: If you are in the position to afford to build a new home, consider being a throwback and ask for a big, wide front porch to grace the front of your home. Who knows, you might be the one to start a building trend that has the potential to bring people together again. At the very least, it will look great to all those who pass by and enjoy it!

Reviving good things about the past can be a positive thing, as long as we recognize that the past can never be wholly re-created, only, maybe, improved upon.

– Amanda Stiver