As I was performing the annual fall ritual of bringing in the porch furniture, I thought it might be a good time to reflect, pause and ponder that specific American architectural institution: the porch. In America, we have front porches, side porches, back porches, entry porches, screened porches, three season porches, four season porches, and of course the topless deck which I would consider to be a poor man's porch although these babies ain't cheap to build.
Porches have been around for thousands of years dating back to prehistoric times when Fred Flintstone and his caveman brethren would sit outside their caves under an overhanging piece of ledge and discuss the day's hunt or activities down at the tar pit. They'd sit, drink, tell stories, and watch the sun go down until Wilma and Betty started yelling at them to come in. That scenario has continued uninterrupted into modern times.
The word "porch" is derived from the Latin word "porticus" or the Greek word "portico," both signifying the columned entry to a temple. According to Wikipedia, "The portico allows entrance to the inside from the exterior and can be found on vernacular and small scale buildings." But, you also had "loggias" which were "accessed only from inside and intended as a place for leisure. Thus, it is found mainly on noble residences and public buildings."
Porches did not appear in European architecture and thus were not brought to the colonies when originally settled. It is unclear how the porch became such an important element in America, but by the mid 1800s they began to appear, and over the next century became prevalent. Some of the first front porches in the Americas were on the shotgun style homes built in the South. Obviously, in the warmer climates there, the porch not only extended the living space of the home but provided a place to sit and catch a cool breeze.
By the early 18th Century, porches began to appear on many different style homes, including colonials, Greek and Gothic Revival, farmhouses, and the popular stick style homes so prevalent in the Northeast during the late Victorian period. One of the main features of these ornately decorated Victorian homes were the expansive porches, which often wrapped the entire exterior of the structure. The porches usually had intricate balustrades and ornate angled "y" shaped brackets at the tops of the support columns. There were also sleeping porches off upstairs bedrooms which spurred the use of modern window screens to prevent the mosquitoes from late night snacking.
The porch became a center for socializing and entertaining family and friends on warm summer evenings. They bridge the gap from the inside to the outside world. People would go for after-dinner strolls and end up on a neighbor's porch to discuss matters of triviality and importance along with a fair dose of gossip, I expect. But the importance and use of porches began to decline with the invention of air conditioning, the television, and the automobile. No longer did one need to sit outside to cool off, you didn't want to miss the evening TV shows, and the evening stroll was replaced by a ride down to the drive in for a burger. Pretty soon porches began to shrink down to the size of something not much bigger than a phone booth and then the phone booth shrank down to nonexistent. The porch many times is now just a place to stand out of the rain while digging for your car keys.
But there is hope. They are coming back. And the PPSU is helping. Yes, The Professional Porch Sitters Union was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 1999 by avid porch sitter Crow Hollister to help celebrate our porches. His motto is "Sit down a spell. That can wait." Truly, I am not kidding here. Look it up yourself. This is my kind of union. They are definitely nothing like the Teamsters, but they have rules, and the rules are: there are no rules, no regulations, no agendas, no dues, no committees, no scheduled meetings, no membership requirements, and no meeting minutes. And, as near as I can tell, the meetings are not necessarily the dry kind, if you know what I mean.
Membership is spreading with locals now in Ashbury Park, New Jersey; Georgetown, California; Jessieville, Arkansas; Fort Collins, Colorado; Mountainair, New Mexico; Westbrook, Connecticut; and close to home in Waterville, Maine! It would appear to me that the Lakes Region would be prime territory for a PPSU of our own given the abundance of porches and great subject matter such as the Pumpkin Fest, the future of Motorcycle Week, the Patriots, Meredith's traffic problems, or protecting the WOW trail from vandals and druggies. Oh yeah, we could also talk about porches and real estate. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to be a founding member. Spring is right around the corner. Really.
There were 114 residential sales in October in the twelve communities covered by this Lakes Region Real Estate Report. The average sales price came in at $360,939 with a median price point of $230,000. October is traditionally a good sales month and there were 112 sales last October. I can attest to the fact that porches were attached to many of these sales.
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 11/18/15. Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012
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