The Sunday porch: Petworth rowhouses

. . . . . Houses in rows
Patient as cows.

— Robert Pinsky, from “City Elegies — III. House Hour

Petworth rowhousesRows of houses in the Petworth neighborhood, Washington, D.C., ca. 1920-1950, by Theodor Horydczak, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Petworth was farm and forest until the 1880s when the land was purchased for development.  In the 1920s and 30s, thousands of rowhouses were built, many of them in a style popularized by developer Harry Wardman (from 1907) — with its distinctive elevated front porch and tiny front yard.

Wardman-style rowhousesAbove:  Petworth rowhouses on Shepherd St., 2010, by Carol Highsmith, via Library of Congress.

“The porches [were] a big part of growing up in Petworth.  On my block there had to be 15 or 20 kids, and you’d come home from school, get on the porch, and look down the block, and you could see this long row of porches, and you’d see everybody coming out of their house. The porches made you get to know your neighbors, they made it a neighborhood.”

— A Petworth resident in the 1940s, quoted in the Washington City Paper

Wardman built his front porch rowhouses in large parts of northwest Washington, and several other developers copied them all over D.C.

Petworth was named a “Best Old House Neighborhood of 2013” by the magazine This Old House.

back yards and laundryAbove: backyards of rowhouses, neighborhood not noted, Washington, D.C., July 1939, by David Myers, via Library of Congress.

At the backs of Wardman-style rowhouses were screened sleeping porches (top) and kitchen porches (bottom).

Petworth resident Annette L. Olson decided to install a green roof on the top of her rowhouse front porch.  She wrote about the process for the “Where We Live” column of The Washington Post here.

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