For Rent: Prime Real Estate

I have always wanted a house with a big front porch.  Big enough to have a porch swing.  Big enough to fit my whole family and then some.  I remember my grandparents in Ohio having a porch like that, and I remember how I loved to sit in the swing and watch the world go by.  At night, when I was small and had been put to bed, I would listen through the open window as the adults sat on the porch, laughing and sharing stories, the hot summer breeze rustling the curtains as their voices drifted into my upstairs room.

I remember when it was customary for people  to sit out on their front porches in the evening or on Sunday afternoons.  They’d bring out new babies and show them off to the neighbors.

My grandfather and oldest cousin, circa 1945

They’d share the latest neighborhood gossip and activities.  You knew if someone was ill and needed a casserole, or if someone was out of work and just needed to talk. You felt close to the people on your street because you’d watch them walk by and they’d stop to talk to you while you sat out on your front porch, and you’d do the same when you walked by theirs.

My great-grandfather, two great uncles, my grandmother, and in front of them, my mother in the middle of her two cousins

 

When did people stop sitting on their front porches?  Was it when television became so popular?  Was it when people moved out farther from the center of town and their homes had big back yards?  They built patios and bought picnic tables and never ventured out to their front porches anymore except to leave their houses.  People lost touch with what was happening in their neighborhoods.  They didn’t know who moved out and who moved in or who was ill, or who had died.  I know because a few weeks ago when I talked to my next door neighbor,  I found out that her husband had died.  I cried because I didn’t even know he had become so ill, and I never got to say goodbye.

One of my favorite walking routes takes me through a neighborhood with houses that have lovely front porches.  No matter what day I walk, I have never seen a soul sitting on one of them.  They are exactly the kind of porches that I have always wanted.  Big and shady, places for rockers and porch swings.  People should be out on them, sitting in the afternoon heat, drinking iced tea.  If one of them were mine, you can bet I’d be sitting on it, watching the world go by.


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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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44 Responses to For Rent: Prime Real Estate

  1. Leah says:

    I’m with you. I would LOVE a front porch where we just gather and sit in rocking chairs. They don’t have that many here in Southern California.

  2. Robin says:

    In the part of Ohio where I’m currently living, some people still sit on their front porches and wave at passersby. The farmers and I even wave at each other as we drive by on the road, even though we don’t know each other. But I’ve noticed that the folks in the McMansions next door, the people who have the really big, fantasy-type front porches, never use them for anything more than decoration. I wish I could transfer one of those porches to the front of my home so I could put it to better use. In the meantime, M and I are redoing our front porch. On our own. What it will end up like remains to be seen. But we’ll be sitting out there on summer evenings, enjoying the shade. (The summer sun hits the back of the house and property so the front porch is The Place To Be.)

  3. You know I love a great porch post like this one! We sat out on our tiny porch this evening. I agree about the advent of television and computers affecting those old simple pleasures.

  4. pattisj says:

    I saw an older gentleman sitting on his front porch recently in my travels. Noticing too late as I passed, I wished I’d had the opportunity to wave. Do you remember that? Or was that from my rural upbringing?

    • Coming East says:

      I don’t know, Patti. I think people in small towns, sitting in porches, wave to passers-by. At least, that was the way it used to be when people actually sat on porches. I’m sure that older gentleman remembers a time when that was commonplace.

  5. We love homes with big porches like the ones in your photos, they are just too beautiful to go to waste.

  6. judithhb says:

    We had a porch just like that in the house we designed and lived in before my husband died. We did most of our entertaining there. Steps led down into the lawn and it was behind a high hedge so we didn’t see anybody who passed by. I still have a verandah like that in my little house but I have rarely used it since I moved in.

    • Coming East says:

      It sounds as if you had a gorgeous home, Judith. Since we live in a townhouse, I have know big front porch, just a few steps. No room to even fit a small chair.

  7. I want a porch like that! I have a balcony though and that gives me more privacy. Maybe that’s the issue. It’s seen as voyeurism these days. I’ve seen three generations on one family making the most of the sun by dragging their chairs out onto the narrow strip of concrete between their house and the pavement round here. Community, family, communication, it’s a beautiful thing. :)

  8. Those pictures are awesome – grandma was such a cutie. We will have to do some porch sitting this summer together.

  9. Amy says:

    Great post! Those were the good old days… It reminded me what Sherry Turkle talked about “Connect, but along… being alone together” on TED.com http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html

  10. There is so much value in that front porch or stoop. I grew up with regular front porch visits at my grandparents’ house and it’s why everyone knew who they were. It’s also why a neighbor checked on my great-uncle and found him in his bed, gone on to the next world. They had just been sitting outside the night before, and because my great-uncle was a regular stoop-sitter, the neighbors knew something was up when he didn’t appear by the next afternoon. Thanks for the reminder – and for sharing such great photos!

  11. Shary Hover says:

    It seems like people don’t have time to sit on their porches and connect with neighbors anymore. We’re always rushing around in our cars trying to get everything done. I think I’d like a slower paced life.

    • Coming East says:

      Unfortunately, Shary, at your age, the world is moving pretty fast and it won’t slow down for awhile. Of course, you should feel free to put on the brakes once in awhile.

  12. gaycarboys says:

    How is it that I never noticed this until you pointed it out. It’s the same here in Sydney. I’m wondering now if thosw verandahs were ever used? Then I realised I don’t use my balcony except to work on my bonsai collection. There is a huge park just across the street and I rarely venture into it. It’s quite sad.

  13. The combination of air-conditioning and TV probably made front porches into decorations. I still sit on mine, especially during a thunderstorm. Still, no neighbors in sight. Sometimes neighborhoods look like some sort of science-fiction disaster happened: perfectly manicured lawns without a soul in sight.

    • Coming East says:

      Love that description of the neighbors, Adela! It’s like the Twilight Zone. If I lived next door to you, we could sit out on our porches and shoot the breeze, glasses of iced tea in our hands. By the way, I have my idea for my guest post. Been tied up and now need to look for pictures.

  14. Dor says:

    Almost every house in our little town has that big front porch. And I never see anyone sitting on any of them. I too, find this amazing and wish we had such a luxury. We have a deck but it is totally exposed to the hot sun, so rather uninviting on hot summer days. But a shaded front porch? I would love that too. Thanks for sharing your memories and the pictures of your family. Lovely post. Dor

    • Coming East says:

      front porches and small towns just seem to go together, Dor. But it seems that people who are lucky enough to have front porches don’t use them, and someone like me, who would give her eye teeth to have one, will never get one.

  15. I too always wanted a big porch ~ mine was a wrap around. I wound up in a townhouse condo with a mini front porch that needs to be at least 3′ deeper, but I use it just the same. I like to sit out there and read. Two things will drive me indoors, heat and mosquitoes. I remember during a walking tour of the Victorians in Cape May, NJ finding out that when those houses were built they were specifically designed so that all of the porches lined up making it easier to look up and down the street to keep track of what the neighbors were doing.
    Hopefully electronic communication has nothing to do with those uninhabited porches!

  16. Good question. Perhaps it happened when air conditioning made it comfortable to stay inside.

    • Coming East says:

      Of course, in Texas, it is quite hot during the day, but when we lived in San Anotnio, no matter how hot it was during the day, once the sun went down, it felt nice sitting outside.

  17. Al says:

    Thanks for this nostalgic look back. I certainly remember the days of front porch sitting. The front porches in my neighborhood when I was little were also playgrounds. The neighborhood kids would gather and play board games or cards or whatever moved them at the time. At lunch, sandwiches and lemonade were the standard fair. And yes, you knew everything that was going on in the neighborhood. OK, now you’ve got me all sentimental today.

    • Coming East says:

      Sentimental is nice sometimes, Al. I remember sitting on the porch playing Chinese checkers with my grandpa. Since this is probably the last house we’re going to own, I guess I’m never going to get my front porch.

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