Top of page

The Cooper family on the front porch of their farmhouse near Radcliffe, Iowa, surrounded by animals and foods. Photo by Jim Hansen, 1957 Sept. 9.

A Porch with a View

Share this post:

Porches have many uses. They can serve as a gathering place for socializing with acquaintances, friends, or family. Or they can provide the backdrop for solitary activities like reading or people-watching. As structures, they can provide visual interest. And they come in all shapes and sizes.

This photograph of men gathered on the porch of a North Carolina country store on a summer weekend afternoon packs a lot of information. From product signs and other clues we see the business provides gasoline, kerosene, beverages, and cigarettes. The men seem at ease and it’s easy to wonder how well they knew each other or what their shared experiences might have been in a segregated South.

Untitled photo, possibly related to: Country store on dirt road. Sunday afternoon. Note the kerosene pump on the right and the gasoline pump on the left. Rough, unfinished timber posts have been used as supports for porch roof. Negro men are sitting on the porch. Brother of store owner stands in doorway. Gordonton, North Carolina. Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1939 July.

Photographer Jim Hansen captured this colorful photograph of the Cooper family in early September of 1957, each member engaged with some aspect of farm life, on and around their front porch. The father holds a small pig, while an older child rests an arm around a cow and younger children seem to be shucking corn.

The Cooper family on the front porch of their farmhouse near Radcliffe, Iowa, surrounded by animals and foods. Photo by Jim Hansen, 1957 Sept. 9.

The man and woman in this photo from 1924 are eating a meal on the front porch of a row house. A tub of cottage cheese is prominently featured among the items on the table, and the view of the other porches down the line suggests they are alone among neighbors.

Man and woman eating at table on front porch of row house. Photo by National Photo Company, 1924.

Sometimes even big porches support solitary activities, such as reading a newspaper. The mix of traditional and modern chairs stands out in this scene:

Bavarian Manor, porch, Purling, New York. Photo by John Margolies, 1977.

It is unclear if the boy sitting on this porch is waiting for someone, between activities, or just taking in some fresh air. Whatever the case, the Good Humor ice cream cart wouldn’t have been easy for him to miss.

Boy seated on porch steps as a man peddles a Good Humor ice cream cart down the street, in the Clinton Hill or Vailsburg area of Newark, New Jersey. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, 6 April 1959.

Some porches are quite grand, and can easily host dozens of people.

Group on the porch at “Twin Oaks,” the Washington, D.C., home of the Gardiner Greene Hubbards. Photo between 1890 and 1910.

Photos of unoccupied porches can be just as compelling as those hosting a crowd, like this one by Frances Benjamin Johnston of a residence in South Carolina. There are many details to draw the eye, such as a vine climbing up a window shutter, small glass panes around the front door, and a couple of small logs holding up the center of the porch.

Dormered Cabins, Georgetown vic., Georgetown County, South Carolina. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1936 or 1937.

The many angles and shadows are what catch my eye when I look at this artfully-framed photograph by architectural photographer Balthazar Korab:

Elizabeth Clementine Miller and Robert Stone Tangeman summer house, Llanfair Island, Muskoka Lakes, Ontario. Exterior. Porch. Photo by Balthazar Korab Studios, Ltd., between 1964 and 1970.

Learn More:

Comments (2)

  1. Fun collection of images! with some of my favorites including Jim Hansen, Dorothea Lange and the group at Twin Oaks and introduced me to images by FBJ, John Margolies and the Korab Group.

  2. Nice piece! Thank you!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *