The Sunday porch: Strawberry Hill

My first “Sunday porch,” from August 2013. . .
Vintage Photo of Strawberry Hill, Forkland vic., Greene County, Alabama, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Strawberry Hill plantation, Greene County, Alabama, in 1939, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The front porch is often a box seat for the theater of the garden or the street.  This one seems to have half drawn its curtains against the buzzing, chirping action of the cottage garden below.

Strawberry Hill, 1936, HABS, Library of Congress
Strawberry Hill, November 1936, by Alex Bush, for HABS, via Library of Congress.

The mid-19th century house still exists, although without the vines and flowers.  Its surrounding land is now a cattle ranch.

The Sunday porch: The Appletrees

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“The Appletrees,” Henry Eugene and Eva Johnston Coe house, Southampton (on Long Island), New York, 1914, by Frances Benjamin Johnston,* via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The porch of this 19th century “cottage” is actually an arbor — covered, I believe, in grape vines.  The flower-filled boxwood parterre immediately surrounding the house ends rather abruptly in country fields and woods.

I haven’t been able to discover much about the property and its owners:  Mrs. Coe co-authored a book on American embroidery samplers, and Mr. Coe was evidently considered an arbiter of social acceptance for the wealthy Southampton of his time. He signified who was in and who was out by issuing (or not) invitations to his annual dinner at The Appletrees (or The Apple Trees).

I could not find out whether the house still exists.

This hand-colored glass lantern slide was used by Johnston in her  garden and historic house lectures.


*Photographed when Frances Benjamin Johnston and Mattie Edwards Hewitt worked together.

ADDENDUM, October 2018: A kind reader who lives in Southampton just wrote to me and confirmed that the Coe house no longer exists.

“The last time I was on the property was in the 1960’s. It was a beautiful house and had wonderful out buildings, one of which was a large 2 story barn which was located near the property line that abutted the Catholic Church to the south. The horses were stabled below and the men were housed above.”

The Sunday porch: Strawberry Hill

Vintage Photo of Strawberry Hill, Forkland vic., Greene County, Alabama, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Strawberry Hill, Greene County, Alabama, in 1939.  Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

I’ve been looking at and bookmarking a lot of old photographs of beautiful porches lately, so today, I’m starting a Sunday series for these pictures.

The porch, particularly the front porch, connects — with a pause — the private interior of the house with the communal landscape beyond it.   Andrew Jackson Downing wrote:

A porch strengthens or conveys expression of purpose, because, instead of leaving the entrance door bare, as in manufactories and buildings of inferior description, it serves both as a note of preparation, and an effectual shelter and protection to the entrance. . . .

The unclouded splendor and fierce heat of our summer sun, render this general appendage a source of real comfort and enjoyment; and the long veranda round many of our country residences stands instead of the paved terraces of the English mansions as the place for promenade; while during the warmer portions of the season, half of the days or evenings are there passed in the enjoyment of cool breezes, secure under the low roofs supported by the open colonnade, from the solar rays, or the dews of night.

In his pattern books of the 1840s and 50s, Downing popularized the front porch for the American home as a link to nature.

I see it as a box seat for the theater of the garden or of the street.  Although the one above seems to have half drawn its curtains against the buzzing and chirping action of the cottage garden below.

The porch — and 1821 house attached — still exist, although without the vines and flowers.  The surrounding land is now a cattle ranch. In fact, it is currently for sale for about $3.8 million.

Vintage landscape: flowers and cabbages

“A cottage & garden, Alaska,” ca. 1909-1920. By National Photo Company, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A similar photo of this cottage was labeled “a sourdough’s home.” The word ‘sourdough’ was slang in Alaska for an oldtimer, probably from the Klondike gold rush.  You can click on the image to enlarge it.

                        O cabbage gardens
summer’s elegy
                        sunset survived
Susan Howe, from “Cabbage Gardens