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Some consider the front porch an architectural adornment.
It has vanished and reappeared throughout history and various cultures. We emphatically believe that the American front porch is unique in the lineage of its ancestors.
“Porch” is a derivative of the Latin “porticus” and Greek “portico” represented by a columned entry.
A vestibule in the Middle Ages was a place where worshippers gathered. The modern version is an incomplete walled area attached to the front of a house.
To Americans the front porch says much more.
The melting pot culture of the United States heavily influenced home structures.
Porches were not a part of European architecture and were not widely evident in America until the mid-eighteenth century.
Andrew Jackson Downing
Andrew Jackson Downing, a respected landscape gardener, wrote about his vision of the American home in the mid 1800’s. The porch was the key to the perfect home. He insisted the approach must be different than the English home.
Downing believed people’s pride in their country is connected to pride in their home. We should decorate and build our homes to symbolize the values we hope to embody, such as prosperity, education and patriotism.
The reason? We will be happier neighbors and model citizens.
A Functional Transition
Architecture aside, the cultural importance of the porch is why we long for a lazy afternoon and a cool drink.
Seems to us, the porch is a perfect reflection of one’s attitude.
As a functional transition between the outside and inside, we can exist on the boundary and ponder the value of both.
Our country was founded on those that tamed the wild.
We built cities, cleared land, and subdued nature. It seems only fitting to relax at the threshold of the uncontrolled and the civilized — perched on a wooden rocker.
Not only could we sit between wild and tame, but public and private.
Friends and neighbors would stop by to share a story.
What Happened to the American Front Porch?
The golden years of a front porch lasted from around 1880 to the 1920’s.
Immediately following World War II the front porch vanished in new construction — almost to the point of extinction.
The small town feel was replaced with families purchasing less expensive land and moving away from their workplace.
How? The proliferation of affordable cars allowed for faster travel to a home life with more elbowroom.
The constant flow of cars and exhaust made a front porch a less desirable spot to relax.
Air conditioners and television added to the quick death.
A front porch was a way to enjoy the cool evening air. Conditioned air made the porch an unnecessary outdoor living space.
Entertainment, through television, was brought indoors where we have stared at the screen for over half a century.
By the 1960’s the front porch began a rebirth at the back of the house. Those passing by were no longer stopping to say hello.
Invited guests were welcomed to the porchless front door and visiting happened in the privacy of the backyard.
Front Porch Revival
The 1980s and 1990s began a reappearance of the front porch.
What about today? As digital screens monopolize our attention, we believe the front porch state of mind needs a roaring revival.
Welcome to the Mission Mercantile front porch, where welcomed strangers stop by and quickly become new friends.
Join us for neighborly conversation and the chance to learn something new.
The launch of our virtual front porch will hopefully give you the permission to, “Sit a spell. That can wait.”
Sit back in your rocker, wherever you are.