Apr 092009

The article that inspired the name for the new blog, Front Porch Republic, tells of a 1975 essay titled “From Porch to Patio”. It explains how homes used to be built with front porches where people could interact with their neighbors. Now we more often have patios in back. They are more secluded and private–places to avoid interactions with neighbors.


I wasn’t looking at front porches in particular when I stopped to take a photo of this house. It was on a bike ride I did in April 2006, between Auburn and Tuskegee, Alabama. It looks like it has both a front porch facing the road and a back porch.


This Greek Revival house is in the northeast corner of Kalamazoo County of Michigan. I came across it on a bike ride last month. There is still a front porch that faces the road. But with the front door boarded up, the public space is not as connected to the private space, and is probably not so much used anymore. My impression of Front Porch Republic is that it is trying to re-open those connections, so to speak.

About the same day when I first encountered Front Porch Republic I also encountered yet another type of Front Porch. It’s one for which I don’t have a photo, unfortunately. It’s in Sergei Nikitich Khrushchev’s book about his father, “Nikita Khrushchev : and the creation of a superpower (2000)”. Early in the book he quotes from notes his mother had written about their move to Moscow in the mid 1930s. Nikita Sergeyevich’s parents came to live with them:

Grandmother Kseniya Ivanovna spent most of her time in her room or sitting on a stool on the street near our entrance. There were always people standing around her, and she would talk with them. N.S. didn’t approve of her sitting there, but his mother wouldn’t listen to him.

Sergei Nikitich explains:

Grandmother Kseniya Ivanovna was totally unable to adapt to city life and didn’t want to change her habits. In the village she was used to sitting onside on a zavalinka [mound of earth around peasant homes–Trans.] and spending hours chatting with neighbors, and she continued this in Moscow. But Moscow was not Kalinovka, and in the 1930s a heart-to-heart talk could cost you your life. That was why Father worried.

I get the impression that Front Porch Republic would approve of Kseniya Ivanovna’s behavior, and would like to keep our country from becoming a place where heart-to-heart talks on the front porch could cost you your life. But maybe there is a cost that will have to be borne anyway when we leave our private patios to enter public forums; otherwise we wouldn’t have secluded ourselves in back patios or under anonymous pseudonyms on the internet.

[I’ve posted this under both pseudonyms: The Reticulator and The Spokesrider]