Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picture Perfect Porches: History of the Front Porch (Part 1)

I'm always interested in the history behind things (especially iconic things/people in the history of the United States) and so when I started this series (waaay back in January), I decided that in addition to finding images of porches I loved, I wanted to do a little research on the history of porches, specifically porches in America. I found several great resources by just Googling and I felt like it was an interesting topic to explore.  However, this is basically a research paper on porches, so if it's not your thing, I won't take offense!

The word "porch" originally derives from "the Latin word porticus, or the Greek word portico, both of which are associated with a classical temple from around this time. . By Victorian times, the word "porch" was analogous with the words "veranda," "piazza," "loggia," and "portico," each of which could imply individual differences. By the close of the of the nineteenth century, the word "porch" began to represent its current meaning, which generally refers to a "roofed, but incompletely walled living area" directly adhered to the frame of a house.

The porch can really be traced back to the overhanging rock shelters of prehistoric times. It's first appearance in the modern world was in Ancient Greece and Rome. . North of Europe, porches were rarely used, but to the south in Africa, porches were often found in the shotgun houses of West Africa. Finally, by the early eighteenth century, porches spread in the Americas. A century later, porches had become an important element of American architecture.

Because porches were not popular in European architecture at the time, porches did not appear in the colonies until the late 1700's, when some of the first porches in America were built by the immigrants from Africa. Probably inspired by the houses of West Africa, the shotgun house, built by the African slave, appeared as one of the first American houses to consistently exhibit a front porch. Climate also impacted the rise of the porch, which is supported by the fact that porches in America grew first and most quickly in the South. Of course, the climate of America was hotter than in Europe in general, making the porch an instrumental architectural form throughout the whole country.

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