While wood houses can last centuries (with a decent roof), wood porches are rarely so lucky. Porches are highly vulnerable to the elements, and in an age before pressure-treated lumber became the norm, wood porches rotted. It was not uncommon for an 1895 wood porch to be totally punky by 1915.
Porches are also highly vulnerable to fashion. This seems odd, right? But people are as prone to architectural fashion as they are to sartorial fashion as they are to automotive fashion. In short, people hate being unfashionable (in high school, I remember being embarrassed because my parent’s car was six years old. In junior high, I was MORTIFIED when my mother would not buy me bell-bottom jeans. “Mom! All the other kids are wearing bell-bottoms!”).
A quick way (relatively speaking) to update a house is to replace its porch. If the porch is already a rotting mess, all the more reason. As such, legions of Victorian-era porches were torn off and replaced circa-1915 with Mission-style porches or 1950s Mid-Century Modern porches or 1970s “New Orleans-style” porches and so on. About twenty years ago the dreaded Home Depot-style porch made its appearance. Sigh.
As I drive around Emporia I am always on the alert for porches original to what they are attached to. Intact porches are not only a pleasure to view, they are invaluable as templates. If you, for example, are missing your original porch, copying a neighbor’s original porch may not be a bad idea, provided their house is similar to yours.
More porches to follow as I find ’em…