Italians enjoy piazzas, the French love their sidewalk cafes but in America, the front porch rules, spanning the front of countless homes in every city and village. Porches can be wide or narrow, one story or two, cover half the front façade or wrap around three — or even four — sides.
Porches emerged at the middle of the 19th century, as cities grew larger and families began living in individual homes. People viewed their yard and garden from inside the house and planned for the vistas viewed through windows. Gradually the point of view shifted from inside to how the house looked from the street, and so, the front porch emerged as a place to see and be seen — to be outside but still sheltered by the home.
While a back porch may have allowed the family more privacy, around the beginning of the 20th century the backyard included things that the family wanted to get away from when they spent time outdoors — the vegetable garden, trash heap, and especially the outhouse. Indeed, the growth of municipal sanitary sewers lead to a decline of both outhouses and front porches.
The heyday of the front porch lasted from the early 1880s to the middle 1920s. Families added front porches to their homes or built new houses with elaborate porches. Even today, in my hometown (where most of the houses were built in the 1920’s) you can still see those beautiful “wraparound” porches which have been lovingly restored. The porch became the comfortable spot for a summer evening where the whole family could relax after dinner. Neighbors taking an evening stroll could engage in conversation or be invited up onto the porch. A typical porch would be at least five feet wide, with a wooden ceiling, often covered with beadboard. Rails surrounded the porch — usually built to match the rest of the house, whether it was lacy gingerbread or sturdy stucco kneewalls. The floor would be tongue-and-grooved planks laid with a slight pitch to help water drain away from the house.
Furniture on the porch could be utilitarian, such as leftover straight chairs from inside. Or families might purchase furniture especially for the porch made from wicker or bamboo, with and without cushions. Rocking chairs proved to be especially popular for whiling away summer evenings. But the ultimate accessory was a porch swing, suspended on chains at one end of the porch, the perfect place to rock a child to sleep or to get to know a high school sweetheart.
Front porches lost some of their appeal in the 1950’s when things like television and air conditioning made families more likely to stay inside their homes rather than be out on the porch. Then, in the 1960’s and 1970’s front porches started to disappear from house plans, being replaced by patios and decks. But today, the pendulum has swung back and front porches are being added to existing homes and are also appearing on new house plans. And, an integral part of the front porch is, you guessed it, the porch swing!
Porch swings are, we’re proud to say, a specialty of ours, here at Fifthroom.com. They come in a variety of styles and materials including: the Red Cedar American Classic, the Treated Pine Fan Back, the Red Cedar English Garden along with many, many more. And, if you like a free-standing swing, we have those as well like our Dutchman Face-to-Face and the Greenfield Arbor and Swing.
Whether you want to add a porch swing to its traditional spot on your front porch or if you think it would be fun to add a freestanding swing to your deck, garden or yard, Fifthroom.com has the right porch swing for you to rock away the summer.