Cover image for The American porch : an informal history of an informal place
The American porch : an informal history of an informal place
Dolan, Michael, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
v, 346 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NA3070 .D65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
NA3070 .D65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A fascinating look at an American institution--a place where public life meets private.

Author Notes

Michael Dolan has written for The New Yorker, Slate, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and other publications. His documentary script and production credits include many television programs aired by National Geographic Explorer and the Discovery Channel. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and son

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Though many believe the porch is a distinctly American architectural contribution and cultural institution, it actually has its roots in the ancient world. However, Americans have adopted the porch as their own, infusing this homey and humble structure with a uniquely American style and significance. Dolan conducts the reader on a guided tour, analyzing the aesthetic and social history of the American porch. A symbol of welcome and sociability, the porch enjoyed enormous popularity in this nation for more than 200 years. Falling into architectural and cultural disfavor in the mid-twentieth century, porches were demolished in old structures and eschewed by new construction. However, recent years have witnessed a revival as Americans, nostalgic for a simpler time and way of life, have flocked back to the porch. Dolan interweaves his experiences designing and constructing his own front porch, giving this tribute to an American classic an engaging personal slant. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Dolan's first book describes the development and significance of this durable American symbol of "small-r republican, small-d democratic openness." It turns out that the porch has a diverse lineage, with roots in Mediterranean Europe, West Africa, the Caribbean and India, and a bewildering variety of terms for ancestral or related structures. Indeed, the subject may be too diffuse and elusive for Dolan's approach-an intermediary space between interior and exterior appears to be such a basic element of tropical architecture that one could as easily write a history of the window or the door. It takes a while for Dolan to warm up to his subject, and the early chapters are studded with uneasy speculation and irrelevant byways. Dolan is on surer ground once he reaches the United States-his anecdotes cohere into a narrative, and his analysis of the significance of the porch is more persuasive. Dolan amply demonstrates that the porch is primarily a means of escaping the heat and, almost as important, a locus for casual social interaction. The 19th century was the Golden Age of the American Porch. As Dolan glumly notes, the disappearance of the outhouse and the advent of the automobile were among the factors that caused the front porch to fall into disfavor, almost to complete extinction, during the suburban 20th century. The good news for Dolan and his confreres is that the porch is making an unanticipated comeback. B&w illus.; 32 pages color illus. not seen by PW. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this delightful look at an American icon, journalist and documentary scriptwriter and producer Dolan traces the history of the porch, using this history to explore subjects such as architecture, history, slavery, colonialism, trade, anthropology, sociology, consumer behavior, and publishing. He begins with an account of remodeling his own front porch and then takes us on an irreverent yet informative tour of the development of the porch, from its origins in ancient Greece and Rome, Africa and India, with stops along the way in Brazil, the Caribbean, Renaissance Italy, Georgian England, and Colonial America. From there, he charts the rise, decline, fall, and reemergence of the porch in America, from Greek revival architecture to plantation culture, from Victorian bungalows to suburban ranch homes, from front porch conversation to air conditioning and television, and from Modernism to the New Urbanism. Throughout, the author supplements his own research by calling upon an impressive array of authorities. Considering the book's accessibility, the amount and quality of its coverage, and the current lack of comparable titles, this is highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.-M.C. Duhig, Lib. Ctr. of Point Park Coll. & Carnegie Lib., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. 1
Introduction: My Porch and Welcome to Itp. 5
Chapter 1 As American As Ancient Greece ...and Imperial Romep. 21
Chapter 2 Loggia Logic, Renaissance Rootsp. 33
Chapter 3 Out of Africap. 41
Chapter 4 ...Or Was It out of India?p. 53
Chapter 5 ...Or Was It out of Italy?p. 57
Chapter 6 From the Old World to the Newp. 91
Chapter 7 George's Piazza and Tom's Porticop. 103
Chapter 8 Early Days of an Iconp. 127
Chapter 9 Getting into Printp. 147
Chapter 10 Ubiquityp. 167
Chapter 11 Glory Daysp. 181
Chapter 12 Teeterp. 201
Chapter 13 Totterp. 213
Chapter 14 Fallp. 225
Chapter 15 Rise Againp. 257
Chapter 16 Revivalp. 287
Author's Notesp. 313
Bibliographyp. 321
Acknowledgmentsp. 333
Indexp. 337
Creditsp. 346