A Celebration of the Front Porches of Old North Knoxville

This article was originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel on July 4, 2000, and was
republished in the
Old North News.

The dictionary says a porch is “a covered entrance to a building, usually with a separate roof.”

But whoever penned such a description must have never enjoyed a lazy, hazy Sunday afternoon from grandmother’s front porch. Because such a description doesn’t give a porch any credit at all.

A porch isn’t a deck, and it isn’t a stoop. People who have stoops may wish those smaller spaces could magically grow into a wide porch. And they sometimes treat them like porches, adding a rocking chair and potted plants to the space. And people who have decks sometimes end up putting a roof over the decks and turning them into open porches or even screened porches.

A porch is a place for a swing with a flattened pillow for your head or for your behind.

Add a few comfortable chairs, a small table for a plant, drinks or magazines and even a glider, and that porch becomes an extended room in the outdoors. A set or two of wind chimes and you have natural music. Bring out the portable telephone and you won’t have to worry about missing anything.

A porch’s railings make the perfect place to collect rocks, plants and jars for lightning bugs. Its eaves and hanging baskets are a place for birds’ nests, and its front steps invite a parade of potted plants along their sides.

A porch’s corners are great places for children to pitch tents from old bedspreads and blankets from the hall closet without worrying about getting underfoot in the house or having their tent flooded in a sudden summer storm.

A porch is a place to watch the world go by, not worrying if you need to get up and join it. It’s a place to gather and talk on a Sunday afternoon after a chicken and dumpling dinner at grandmother’s or late in the evening with the neighbors after the dishes are done, watching the children play flashlight tag.

Everyone gets lazier and everything gets a little slower on a front porch. Iced tea, with lots of sugar, goes well with a porch. So does a good homegrown tomato sandwich. So does a good book borrowed from the library.

Pretty useful thing for just “a covered entrance.”

Sunday, September 30, [2000], 2–4 p.m.
Spend an afternoon on a free walking tour of Historic Old North Knoxville. Front porches are one of the most distinctive features of American houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. See Victorian, Craftsman, Neoclassical, and Greek Revival examples of porches dating from the late 1800s. Selected homes will offer refreshments on the porch (these homes will be marked with colored flags in the parkway). You may obtain a map of homes by stopping by any home marked with colored flags. Please respect private property by not walking onto porches that are not so designated. These homes may be admired from the street.

See a later article from the Old North News describing the tour.