Read The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place by Michael Dolan Free Online
Book Title: The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place|
The author of the book: Michael Dolan
ISBN 13: 9781592282715
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 556 KB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2853 times
Reader ratings: 5.7
Edition: Lyons Press
Date of issue: July 1st 2004
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An entertaining volume on the origins and subsequent development of the front porch; although the style is often flippant, the information is interesting.
For example, the front porch was not a feature of domestic architecture in England, the source of many of the first European immigrants to N. America, but it was a feature of homes in Africa. Caribbean indigenous peoples also used wrap-around porches and built their homes on stilts. The author traces the development of porches in the Caribbean to these two groups, and traces the diffusion of the style to N. America to the contacts between the Caribbean and N. America, especially the adoption of the style in Carolina. A second influence was that of the adoption of Roman porticoes in Europe - also known as galleries in N. America. The blending of these two influences led to the widespread adoption of the architectural feature, which went through eras of greater or lesser popularity. At the time the book was written, in 2001, the porch was regaining some popularity vs. the deck, but the mania for the porch had peaked and declined with the advent of air-conditioning, TV, years before - the decline started early in the 20th century but then accelerated after the Second World War, when ranch, Colonial, and Cape Cod style houses became standard in suburbia - none of which include front porches (although many may have rear porches, or patios, and some may have enclosed/screened in side porches).
The idea of porches as a means of promoting neighborhood cohesiveness is discussed; whether having the feature can change residents' experience of a neighborhood. I think, 14 years on, with the unending focus on our "navels" - that is our smartphones - the answer is that porches alone cannot promote neighborliness and its benefits. Time and technology have advanced. Unfortunately, the replacement to the front porch, or earlier still, the gathering around the cracker barrel at the general store to discuss current events, in the age of social media isn't neighborly or supportive at all, may be quite the opposite of a benefit, since it invariably leads to snark or abuse. This sort of interaction would have been quite unlikely IRL - either on a porch or at the general store. Anonymously commenting, although it is a form of free speech and so as such I support it even if it is snarky, nasty, or otherwise un-constructive, is similar to a conversation that might be held at a bar after a few drinks, when social constraints begin to crumble and if a person has an axe to grind, then the nastiness will come out. The comment fields of articles give to people anonymously commenting the "freedom" to remove their social constraints or masks and say things they would never say in real life - that's the "benefit" of our modern age, that's the replacement of the front porch or the general store. Although not every conversation of course ends up as a battle of snark, social media, and the ability to comment endlessly and anonymously has made it even less likely that people will return to the in contrast "much less exciting" front porch, unfortunately. That is why you see almost every person glued to their smart phone, day and night; it's much more convenient than paying visits, phoning, or simply socializing in a public space or even on a porch. It potentially is the reverse of "socializing" in the sense of furthering cohesiveness and discussion. Luckily, the snark/nastiness is just limited to online discussions usually among anonymous individuals - a game, but consider it in contrast to chatting amiably on a porch.
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