If you drive across America these days, you may notice that something is disappearing. It is the front porch. Most newer homes have been built with little or no front porch. In its place, you find decks or patios, and those are almost always located in the back of those houses. Nowadays, when family members want to sit outside, their place of preference is a location that is not visible from the front of the house. In my childhood in St. Louis, even though we had a tiny front porch, when we had visitors and the adults wanted to sit outside during pleasant weather, the place to sit was on the front lawn, not in the back of the house. I think it’s a fair thing to say that the front of a contemporary house is a place to be nicely landscaped for “curb appeal”, but it is not a very functional place. The place where family activities take place most often is in the back yard.
I think one of the big reasons adults are not seen in front of their homes these days is the fact that the children don’t play there. In days gone by, if people lived where there was very little traffic, their children played in the streets. I know I did. Parents have legitimate concerns about their children’s safety these days, and playing in the streets has become a thing of the past. I think another factor that has contributed to vanishing front porches is air conditioning. People now have a tendency to remain indoors when the weather becomes hot. I am one of those people who is sad that folks for the most part do not utilize the front of their houses. And I am sad that the architectural structure known as the front porch has become so rare in modern homes.
Back in the old days, a front porch was not just a place to sit and socialize or to relax. It was a place to get some work done. The kitchen would often become unbearably hot, so women might go to the porch to perform tasks like shelling peas or peeling potatoes. The man of the house might sit there to perform maintenance on his tools. Sometimes, the inside of the house may have become “stuffy”, and the front porch was a place to get some fresh air. Because front porches were roofed, it was also a place where one could sit outside while it was raining.
This post will not be one filled with family research. I want to just display examples of front porches that have existed in this area’s past. Some of them are homes that are still standing. Most of them are examples of houses that were located in East Perry County, but a few are from across the river near Jacob, Illinois. I will put most of them in galleries in which you can click on them to see them larger. In many cases, these are photographs that have shown up in previous blog posts. The captions indicate the name of a family that lived in that home at one time. In a few cases, we even find front porches on the front of log cabin homes. I will start with some houses that have porches that extend all the way across the front of the building.
Here is another selection of porches shown in old photos.
Then there are some impressive homes that had what I will call double-decker front porches.
I don’t think we should ignore the fact that even some old stores had front porches.
I decided to give my award for the most impressive front double-decker porch to the home of Leo Lottes.
Leo Lottes and his wife had no children of their own, but were known for taking in children who were in need of a place to live. This house was still standing when I moved to Altenburg 9 years ago. However, in order to make room for a new public school gymnasium, it was demolished. It was sad to see it go.
A quick story. I know a pastor who lives in Minnesota who has a standing invitation for people to come visit what he calls the Parsonage Porch. It is a front porch. Part of his invitation includes his offer to serve some of his home-brewed beer if you visit him on his porch. I’ve been there. The beer and fellowship is very good. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to see happening in our culture once more. His Parsonage Porch even contains a little bit of Lutheran flair.
The collection of front porches shown in this post is by no means all-inclusive. I’m sure I haven’t shown them all.
In closing, let me show you our front porch. If you ever want to stop by to sit a spell with me on our front porch, please do so. I’m sure we can share some stories.