The first time I heard the phrase “front porch living” was in grad school. I was getting a degree with an emphasis in urban education, so many of my courses looked at ways people in the inner city lived that would be different from a suburban point of view. (This was just as Denver was beginning to gentrify its urban neighborhoods, so I’m sure many of these cultural phenomena have changed in the recent years.)
A neighborhood with strong front porch living often doesn’t have an attached garage or they may have small backyards. Neighbors congregate out front – they see each other’s comings and goings and often stop to chat. Because much of life takes place out front, there are not may secrets (for good or bad) and there is much more opportunity to know the community.
I loved the idea of knowing my neighbors, of doing life together, and of living out front so we can interact in a more relaxed, natural way.
At our old house, we were located on a frontage road, so we had no across the street neighbors. And while our road was quiet, it was right next to a busy thoroughfare, which meant I couldn’t let Daisy or Bea roam out front without being with them. Our neighbors were all friendly, but we only knew a handful.
Now, we have a quaint, fenced-in front yard. At first, I wondered if the fence would be seen as a barrier to our neighbors but the opposite has proven true. I’ll open the front door while making dinner and Bea and Daisy will roam outside, saying (or barking) hello to all who pass. We have a glider out front, so I’ll often sit and watch them play. This has led to many conversations with our neighbors and even to an across-the-street five year old inviting himself into our playroom while I chatted with his dad. It’s been amazing! Already, we have chatted with most neighbors and we’re just entering lovely hangout outside weather.
I’m looking forward to this summer of building community in a way that involves spontaneity, casual conversations, and building relationships that lead to deeper connections. We’ve already talked about putting our vegetable garden out front instead of in the back, of building a Little Free Library, and of hosting a block party. Our fenced yard seems to be full of potential for bringing our neighbors together and we want to be an intentional part of creating this community.
Part of living generously, of living intentionally in our community, and of growing our hospitality is to create moments in which we can easily open our front door and let people in. I’d love to create relationships with our friends and neighbors where doorbells are unnecessary and our homes are always open. I have a good feeling about our neighborhood in particular and am thinking about ways in which I can further cultivate that level of ease and welcome with friends who may have to drive to our house. As I open myself to others, I hope they feel welcome and comfortable to sit on the porch – or come inside – and experience life together.
Where do you do most of your congregating – out front or in back? How do you meet your neighbors?
9 thoughts on “Front Porch Living”
We have a back yard but I don’t think our boys have ever played in it. We have a wide driveway that is very flat that has become the neighborhood basketball court, football field and street hockey (rink?). The moms sit together under a tree and I just love it. Now that the kids are older they can often go outside on their own and we all keep an eye on them.
That sounds amazing! I can’t wait until Bea is old enough to truly play on her own with others. You guys must have a special neighborhood. 🙂
Our first urban year (1966-1967) was grad school and we lived in East Harlem, on and near East 100th Street (between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue, downtown side of the block). We read the book by Jane Jacobs “The Life and Death of Great American Cities.” The East Harlem equivalent of “front porch” that year was the outdoor metal fire escapes. These buildings were built in the 1890’s and at that time one block may have had thousands (or at least many hundreds) of residents in 6-story walk-ups. (It you added any more stories, you had to install elevator).
The first three years or so we reared our offspring a little further south on East 81st Street (Yorkville, south of cross-town wide street 86th with express subway stop).
Four year old – we have two grandchildren – the younger turns four in July (she has older brother who turns 8 the day after her birthday). My father (born 1916) showed me in the 1950’s rolling a metal hoop – fun. I also jumped hop scotch in the sandy driveway during pleasant weather while awaiting the arrival of the public school bus (we were almost the last to be picked up before unloading at the Elementary school about 1.5 mi. away.
That’s so fun that you’re teaching your grandkids classic games. They must love it! Fire escapes do seem like the urban version of the front porch. What an experience!
My Annie has made me a front porch person. She loves to sit outside and rule over her kingdom. But she won’t stay out long without me. I have grown to love it as that’s often how I spend my lunch hour with her just enjoying the neighborhood as it interacts around and with us. For those that don’t know, my Annie is a dog.
Your Annie sounds like the best dog. 🙂 It’s amazing how dogs and kids can bring neighbors together.
Front porch living is an integral part of Southern life that we keep working to get back to.
I do always think of the quintessential Southern front porch when I think of sipping iced tea and talking with neighbors. You guys know how to build in community!