Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New Book Examines the Age of Porches and Porches Through the Ages

Repost from University Communications  (The University of Vermont)
by Amanda Kenyon Waite   04-25-2012


Before the days of automobiles, air conditioning, television and radio, there was the front porch. No dust kicked up by traffic, a cool breeze on a hot day, and the entertainment of neighbors and strangers passing by made the porch a haven for neighborhood dwellers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"The porch was this kind of extended threshold," says Thomas Visser, associate professor of history and director of the Historic Preservation Program. "It was neither inside nor outside, but it was a place to meet and greet strangers. It was a place to socialize informally." That time period is what Visser calls the "golden age" of the porch, a structure, he says, that serves as a virtual stage for human interaction. "It's a prop, if you will. Without the porch, it often would be very difficult for that social engagement to happen."

Visser traces the story of the porch -- and verandas, colonnades, porticoes and piazzas -- their styles, attributes, and functions in his latest book, Porches of North America. He's spent the past 10 years researching the topic and writing more than a few lines of the book, it's worth noting, on the porch of his Burlington home.

Visser's fondness for porches stems from childhood memories of summers spent eating and even sleeping on the screened-in, southeastern-facing, corner porch of his parents' New Hampshire home. "It was just one of the most enjoyable parts of the house and one of the most enjoyable aspects of summer life."
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