Porch sitting

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Mark Twain sitting on a porch

Porch sitting, i.e., sitting on a front porch or stoop, usually of a private residence is a leisure activity which can be a direct or indirect form of social interaction. This activity is a staple of most urban areas in the United States, and helps contribute to a lively atmosphere, for those sitting and also those passing by. This activity is most common during good weather, especially on warm summer nights and weekends.[1]

Porch sitting was once considered to be a status symbol.[2]

As well as being a good way to connect with neighbors, it also is an important form of community security, helping to prevent crime.[3] Front porches were originally mandated in the planned community of Seaside, Florida, as a way to reduce air conditioning usage.[4] Its planners then perceived an enhanced sense of community and front porches subsequently became an important element in the New Urbanism movement.[4] During the summer of 2006, All Things Considered broadcast a series of stories dedicated to the role of the front porch in American life and literature.[5]

There are now thousands of (tongue-in-cheek) Professional Porch Sitters Unions in all fifty states of the U.S. and at least three other countries.[6]

Sitting equipment[edit]

A "lawn or porch chair" as advertised in the Sears Roebuck catalogue of 1897.[7]


Some see a potential downside of sitting on porches: the intrusiveness of porch-based surveillance.[10]


On hot summer days, it was formerly cooler out on the porch than it was inside the house. Air conditioning has thus replaced porch sitting, enabling people able to socialize in the comfort of their homes, although porch sitting is still common in areas where the climate is warm.[1]

Other causes of a decline of porch sitting are television, which provides other entertaining sights,[1][11] and the motor car, which made street views more noisy and unpleasant.

In popular culture[edit]

"Porch-sitters" form a recognized group in marketing[12] and in literature.[13]

Henry Church, an aged ex-British soldier from the American Revolutionary War, was noted for his porch sitting in sight of the train station. The town of Hundred, West Virginia, was then named after him, as he was called "Old Hundred."[14]

The Don Knotts Show had a regular feature, The Front Porch, in which the host and his guest would sit in rocking chairs in a porch and talk philosophically. When Knotts played Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, porch sitting was often incorporated into the sitcom's script. Another television series which featured Southern porch sitting, albeit in a more rural setting, was the family drama The Waltons.

The ethnic slur "porch monkey" is an insinuation that African Americans spend excessive amount of time porch sitting.

In the film Friday, the main characters spend most of their day porch sitting.


  1. ^ a b c Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Sep 4, 1974 Front Porch Sitting in Pittsburgh
  2. ^ The Milwaukee Journal - Jul 20, 1966 When the Swing was King, Porch Sitting Once Was a Status Symbol.
  3. ^ Published on July 11, 2007, Advocate, The (Baton Rouge, LA) Advocate, The : Porch-sitting prevents crime
  4. ^ a b "Porches Knit Together New Urbanist Communities". NPR. 2006-08-01. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
  5. ^ "Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind". NPR. 2006-07-28. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
  6. ^ CBS news Professional Porch Sitters Unite
  7. ^ 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue (Reprint ed.). Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 2007 [1897]. p. 586. ISBN 978-1-60239-063-8.
  8. ^ Robben, Antonius C.G.M (1989). "Habits of the Home: Spatial Hegemony and the Structuration of House and Society in Brazil" (PDF). American Anthropologist. 91 (3): 570–588. doi:10.1525/aa.1989.91.3.02a00020. hdl:2027.42/75052. Retrieved 2011-02-13. The kitchen is the interactional center of the household. When the kitchen becomes too small because of the purchase of a gas stove or refrigerator, a veranda is added that stands in open connection to the backyard. The veranda has a simple lean-to roof under which the large wooden kitchen table and some stools are placed. The family spends most of its time together at the veranda. In the kitchen or at the veranda, household and domestic relations are realized. [...] The domestic world is reproduced when the family eats, cooks, argues, jokes, fights, plays, and gossips together [...]
  9. ^ McGregory, Jerrilyn (2010). Downhome Gospel: African American Spiritual Activism in Wiregrass Country. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. x-xi. ISBN 978-1-60473-782-0. Retrieved 2011-02-15. [...] porches are not only ubiquitous but of everyday use. [...] [in] northern Georgia [...] I noted porches more of the rocking-chair variety [...] [I]n Cairo, Georgia, I photographed two African American sisters chitchatting amicably while shucking peas. [...] They engaged in a mythopoeic porch culture long presaged in my reading of Zora Neale Hurston [...]
  10. ^ Donlon, Jocelyn Hazelwood (2001). Swinging in place: porch life in southern culture. UNC Press Books. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-8078-4977-4. Retrieved 2011-02-15. A history of front porches means a history of others sitting, watching, evaluating, and shaping public behavior. Thus, the porch has contributed to a kind of instability of identity for many southerners, by breaking down boundaries between inner and outer worlds. On the porch, one's sense of self cannot be separated from the perception of external expectations - from the norms of the community. And if the expectations become overwhelming, they can be destructive to a person's identity.
  11. ^ Kentucky New Era - Mar 8, 1994 TV, air conditioning, have made porch-sitting a lost art
  12. ^ "The American Home". The American Home. Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. 20. 1938. Retrieved 2011-02-16. But to maintain privacy and keep the sun out of their eyes, porch-sitters will do well to consider shades. Shades made of wooden slat [...] Nor will such shades jitter the nerves of porch-sitters on breezy days [...]
  13. ^ "The Bookman". The Bookman. 52: 532. 1921. Retrieved 2011-02-16. The children of the porch-sitters were left to nurse-maids or governesses of varying degrees of intelligence.
  14. ^ Moyer, Armond; Moyer, Winifred (1958). The origins of unusual place-names. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Keystone Pub. Associates. pp. 65–66. Retrieved 23 November 2017. Named for Henry Church, dubbed "Old Hundred", who died here in 1860, attaining the age of 109.

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