The Evolution of the American Front Porch

The Study of an American Cultural Object

"Porches are as synonymous with American culture as apple pie. While not unknown in colonial times, they rose to nationwide popularity in the decades before the Civil War, and remained in fashion for almost one hundred years. Ironically, the very social and technological forces that made them both popular and possible were eventually responsible for their decline."

-- from Kahn, Preserving Porches

American Front Porch, Bald Head Island, North Carolina

"Nobody thought much about the front porch when most Americans had them and used them. The great American front porch was just there, open and sociable, an unassigned part of the house that belonged to everyone and no one, a place for family and friends to pass the time."

--Rochlin, The Front Porch, in Home, Sweet Home

In recent times, new emphasis has been given to the cultural history and significance of the American front porch. In an effort to complement and to elaborate this emphasis, this project will attempt to define and distinguish the American front porch as an American cultural object. By exploring its evolution, from its origins to its decline, this project will not merely tell the story of the porch, but will also tell a limited story of America itself. While to many the front porch is unfamiliar, to the rest it must bring to mind a memory, experience, or actual place. This project may help to connect these cultural memories of the front porch to an understanding of the important role it has played in the national experience.

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