The Sunday porch: North Philadelphia

“Middle class row house [stoops] in Black neighborhood of North Philadelphia,” August 1973, by Dick Swanson (his caption) for DOCUMERICA via U.S. National Archives Commons on flickr.

Swanson took this picture for DOCUMERICA, a photography program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From 1972 to 1977, it hired over 100 photographers to “document subjects of environmental concern.” They created an archive of about 80,000 images. In addition to recording damage to the nation’s landscapes, the project captured “the era’s trends, fashions, problems, and achievements,” according to the Archives, which held an exhibit of the photos, “Searching for the Seventies,” in 2013.

The Sunday porch: Boston

An unusual front stoop on Bennington Street in East Boston, near Logan Airport, next to the elevated East Boston Expressway, May 1973, by Michael Philip Manheim for DOCUMERICA, via The U.S. National Archives Commons on flickr.

I think the site of these houses is now the end of the Vienna Street exit from the expressway.

DOCUMERICA was a 1970s photography program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Manheim recorded the disruption to the lives of East Boston residents due to the expansion of Logan Airport.

There are more of his photos here.

The Sunday porch: Washington, D.C.

A repeat porch from September 2013. . .
Wash. D.C., rowhouses, via Library of CongressSeven Washington, D.C., rowhouses, 1939, by David Myers, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The name of the neighborhood was not given in the original caption.  It was only described as “one of the nicer old sections of the city.” It looks like Capitol Hill to me.

In his book, The American Porch, Michael Dolan attempts to trace the European, African, and Asian origins of our many types of porches.  The front stoop — several steps and a small landing — came from the Dutch.

Down the coast [from New England], in Nieuw Amsterdam, a different entry was proliferating.  Made of stone or brick, the stoep — Dutch for “step” — was a roofless link between doorway and street.  Though municipal tradition required a building’s occupants to maintain the stoep, the Dutch deemed it public territory.  However, in Nieuw Amsterdam, the stoop acquired a private connotation:  “. . . before each door there was an elevation, to which you could ascend by some steps from the street,” an observer wrote.  “It resembled a small balcony, and had some benches on both sides on which the people sat in the evening, in order to enjoy the fresh air, and have the pleasure of viewing those who passed it.”

The stoops above lack benches, but the owner of the first one has brought down a chair, and two doors down there is a park bench in the tiny garden.  You can see a similar arrangement here.