It’s summer in New Orleans, yes it’s hot. As a matter of fact, everywhere you go, someone is going to comment on how hot it is but you know what I have always found amazing? Hot as it is, people are still porch sitting. Porch sitting is its own culture and for the record, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a porch. It may be a balcony or a front stoop. Your New Orleans “porch” need not be fancy, the only thing it must be is occupied.
From coffee to cocktails and everywhere in between no matter what you call it or what it is, chances are the porches of New Orleans have heard and seen it all. Where better to catch up on our reading, visit with neighbors, watch kids on bikes pass by, or share stories with friends? Just yesterday, I was driving home and caught a family having a dance party, where else but the front porch!?! Yep, it’s also perfect for dancing.
Ever wonder how the front porch came about?
The American Front Porch has existed as an architectural concept since prehistoric times. Somewhere around the 1840s and 1850s the front porch really began to flourish. Most likely it because in post-Colonial times there was now “leisure time” and building a porch became less expensive and less complicated. Rocking chairs and wicker furniture also increased in popularity during this time. Landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, also gave a significant contribution to the American front in his books by linking the American house with the American landscape. Other landscape architects would follow suit. Cultural significance of the front porch is its connection to nature and the land surrounding it, a concept Americans have always idealized.
The front porch also embodied the idea of family. After all, the porch was an outdoor living room. Before air conditioning, it was a place to retire in the evenings to escape the stuffy indoors – you could watch the children play in the yard, neighbors may stop by to visit and discuss current events and you could just relax while rocking. The front porch was and still is a place where private meets the public, a place for friends and family to pass time and a place for interaction with the community.
My personal love of porches
When I was in college my parents built a house in the country in Virginia with the most beautiful wrap-around front porch. There was a table on the porch, where we would gather to eat, tell jokes, catch up, and just be. That porch was always filled with adults, kids, dogs, cats, and love.
Fast forward to my balcony today, I have two rocking chairs that were from my parent’s porch. Every time I go out there and rock, I feel my past life and present connected.
I remember sitting beside my dad in rocking chairs on the porch the night before he passed, of course, I didn’t know at the time that would be the last time we sat, but we spent hours in those chairs on the porch talking and him telling me the stories of his life. Some of the most precious moments of my life came from taking time to just sit on the porch.
I believe porches are a great unifier of family, friends, community, and surroundings. So much magic happens on the porch- whether it’s a screened sleeping porch, a broad, columned veranda, a balcony or a stoop. A porch represents a bigger picture and community- one where politics may be debated but they don’t divide us, it reminds us of the importance of saying hello and face to face conversations, a place to retrieve from the world with a good book, somewhere to commune with nature and marvel in the little wonders of everyday life. And yes, the perfect place for a dance party!
Happy Porch Sitting Y’all!
Lagniappe: NOLA Porch Sitting Playlist
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