Warm, Welcoming Front Porches
“Nothing brings people together like a porch.”
This quote generally refers to the front porch of a home, intended as a gathering place for friends and family. It conjures images of people sipping cool drinks, eating plates loaded high with food, resting in the shade, and enjoying a collective sense of belonging. Invitations to join the porch are unspoken extensions of welcome for those who want or need respite from life at their own residences.
One Large Welcome Mat
A porch is nothing more than wooden boards, some nails, and a sloped roof; a house reveals the most intimate aspects of the owner’s personality, including habits, interests, and eccentricities. But when it comes to informal gatherings, the porch is the preferred gathering place. There, people enjoy the fresh air of outdoors and the relaxed company of loved ones.
It's interesting that the porch – rather than the house itself – is intended to be the point of reception for visitors. Many years ago, porches played important roles in society. Once upon a time, a gracious host or hostess would greet guests on the porch before inviting them inside the home, where they could then mingle in greater number and with greater ease. In the early 20th century, townspeople built stores with front porches where citizens gathered to gossip. News of births, deaths, and marriages was peppered with reports of crops and criminal activities. People knew they only had to visit a neighbor's porch to learn the latest local stories. All were welcome – none refused – and afternoons passed quickly as neighborhood news passed from one ear to the next.
A Bygone Age
Homes of old were built with more prominent porches. Farmhouses, plantation homes, and even city dwellings featured verandas that witnessed everything from fights and family dramas to parties and marriage proposals. These “rooms” sheltered their inhabitants from inclement weather and offered personalized views of the outside world. They weren’t mere entrances to homes – they were windows to life.
Porches and porch gatherings are not as prolific as they once were. Some homes – and many apartments and manufactured homes – have no porch at all. Instead, they feature balconies, patios, or decks without the same intimate feeling as porches. So people gather now in coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, and parks. These trendy scenes serve dual purposes: They afford the chance to meet and also allow people to see and be seen.
Lessons from the Front Porch
The porch today is unlikely to be considered a fashionable meeting place, meaning porch gatherings aren’t likely to regain regular frequency. But the lessons afforded by porches can still be applied to modern life:
- We need “safe” places where we can comfortably gather with friends and family
- Stories passed down from elders are crucial to every person’s identity because they contain elements of familial history that should be preserved
- Instituting customs like Sunday dinner – whether served on the porch or in the kitchen – provides a sense of community that keeps people whole.
- The memories created from gathering and telling stories form the threads of heritage so crucial to each of us.
No gathering place is quite like a porch. Even as these structures evolve to accommodate our changing lifestyles, they still exude warmth in a way that no restaurant or bookstore can rival. Perhaps the quote “nothing brings people together like a porch” refers not to a physical porch, but to a proverbial meeting place. One that welcomes people in droves without regard for time.