In a recent essay for the Wallstreet Journal, Spike Carlsen reported that the front porch is making a comeback. Carlsen notes that the revival of the front porch is largely due to Covid19 and people staying closer to home but still wanting a social exchange with some distance. Carlsen cites historian, Donald Empson about the importance of the porch in American history: “On the porch, in the cool of the evening, the family could gather to discuss the day’s events and exchange the latest news with neighbors strolling by.” Carlsen captures the essence of porch life with this observation, “Porches offered neighbors a place to exchange gossip, to spin sagas and sing songs, to flirt and court and air political views. The front porch at the turn of the century was Starbucks, flash mob, church social, and Facebook rolled into one.”
Just about everyone above the age of 50 has a porch memory. For me, it was the corner of 3rd & Monroe in a little west Kentucky town with one stoplight. The porch was green. My grandparent’s old green porch was the gathering place for large fish tales, swapping recipes, catching up with neighbors sitting on the swing, or in one of the wicker rocking chairs. It was cooler on the porch with no air conditioning to cool down the house in those hot summer months. I have fond and treasured memories of that sacred space.
Years ago in one of his melancholy songs, the late soul poet Harry Chapin had a recurring line between a man and a woman, “Cause I know I’m goin’ nowhere and anywhere’s a better place to be.” Chapin and porches now there are two things that will tell your age. The truth is there are imaginative neighborhoods that actually provide a “place to be”. Crafted with the intention to promote community by its very design. I know they exist because I’ve lived in one of them and while our front porch was smaller than the old green porch it proved to be just as special with neighbors stopping by, people walking their dogs, and kids giggling while playing in the adjacent park.
America’s restricted movement via social distancing during the pandemic has only highlighted our need for and the value of social interaction. Humans by nature are social creatures. Some more so than others, but we like to gather, chat, catch up, and unplug. You can live in a neighborhood for a long time and not make any connections by your own choosing. However, when you live in a neighborhood with this kind of design those connections are naturally self-promoted because of the intentional design incorporating mixed-use space, diverse single-family homes, townhomes, and generous amenities.
Emerging generations, young couples, and families haven’t known a time in their life without social media and technology. Yes, they expect it, engage it, but they use it as a tool, not a luxury. They are the perfect demographic to prove the front porch revival. Drive, or walk through any of these neighborhoods and you will see people gathering on porches, in driveways, back yards, patios, and in the generous public spaces. And if you are as lucky as me you will find one with people of all ages from diverse backgrounds that only serves to boost the appeal and appreciation of such a community.
The front porch whether it is the front porch, a deck, or patio, is indeed alive and well in many neighborhoods where the design and home value is only increased through the engagement and social interactions of neighbors and friends. It’s hard to place a price on this intangible value but if you’ve been fortunate enough to experience it you will miss it when you move or leave. Trust me, you will miss it! Oh, And when you drive by wave to the people on the porch because in neighborhoods like this they will definitely wave back.
Monty Carter is a former resident and homeowner of O’Neal Village located off Hwy 101 in Greer between the lakes (Cunningham and Robinson). He is a writer for WebSpeakMedia in Greer, SC.
TRG Communities creates imaginative places for homeowners to enjoy a wide array of amenities and living space. We design communities instead of houses and neighborhoods! Our desire is for the total enjoyment and satisfaction of our residents.