Lansdale’s Front Porches

On an unseasonably warm day a few weeks ago, I was standing on the front porch of Rory and Suzy Detweiler’s home at 403 York Avenue, and as I looked west from their front porch I was struck by the tunnel of front porches that lay before me. I counted six in a row and then a few more beyond that in the twins that continued down the street like picture frames getting smaller and smaller.  In the days before air conditioning and ceiling fans, the front porch was often the coolest room in the house in the summer; it was the Facebook of the time. Looking down the row of porches on York Avenue, I can imagine the conversations and the intrigues going on during the waining summer hours before the advent of television and computers (these homes were built in the twenties). Gossip that would include who had one too many the other night, how much did so and so pay for that house on Columbia Avenue and that contagious laughter and carousing that must have been heard echoing off the porch ceilings and decks.

Most modern housing developments from the sixties, seventies and later have a rudimentary porch that is practically non-functional– enough space for a lawn chair and a door matt but not much else. And even if there was a conversation on the front porch of one of these homes there would be no possible way for a neighbor to hear the details, but that was the design and the allure of the colonial, cookie-cutter homes set on  three quarters to an acre of land that drew our parents, the baby boomers, out of South and Northeast Philadelphia. Rebellion against our parents is natural and nostalgia typically skips a generation or two. That is why those stories of grandma eating ice cream on the front porch of her parents’ row home in South Philadelphia on a sweltering summer night while kids played stickball in the street seem so quintessentially American. Lansdale still has the remnants of that era in and on its front porches throughout its avenues and streets. Pull up a chair, grab a beer and stay a while. No need for Facebook here.

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4 responses to “Lansdale’s Front Porches

  1. I love our front porch. In fact I love our whole row of porches. There is nothing better than getting together with your neighbors for a laugh, drink or cigar on the porch after dinner!

  2. Great subject Andy. I remember when Chris and I first moved in and our kids were still babies, we’d put them down for bed and enjoy a nice glass of wine on our tiny front porch. New to the neighborhood we often hoped for others to come out and do likewise so we could meet some new poeple and have some good adult conversation. 12 years later…You know some of our neighbors on the 500 WMV well, so you can understand why we’ve abandoned that practice. ;-)

  3. Andy: Very nice article. Growing up in northeast Philly we indeed had a porch. At night we were aloud to be out but were not permitted off the porch. My 1st home did not have a porch but did have a patio and of course the front steps where neighbors and visitors alike stopped to have a chat and catch up. Moving to Lansdale we again have no porch only a tiny front stoop. But what amazed us was that no one on our street or surrounding streets ever sat out front. We never got to meet the neighbors up close and personal in the early years. Working and commuting to the city for many years, I never even saw the neighbors. I actually knew more commuters and recognized them as I was out and about running errands. We have added a gazebo and patio out back with a fire pit which sees much activity. Stop by the neighborhood. You re always welcome.

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