Encore: The American Front Porch

Author and journalist Michael Dolan joins Tim to tell the story of the American front porch. He’s the editor of American History magazine and the author of a book entitled, “The American Porch: An informal history of an informal place.” In this episode, he talks about how the front porch shaped life in America for well over 200 years. You could say that when it comes to our homes, the front porch was the original social media. This encore episode was originally released May 24, 2021.

America's Front Porch

It’s probably something you may not think about much, even if you have one on your home and you walk across it a few times every day. The front porch.

But did you ever wonder what your life would be like if you didn’t have one? Or, on the other hand, if you are one of millions of Americans who don’t have a front porch, did you ever wonder what your life would be like if you did have one?

It’s not an understatement to say that in neighborhoods with front porches, the social dynamics between and among neighbors are different than they are in neighborhoods without them.

And most certainly those same social dynamics are different today, than they were many years ago, when it was just assumed your home would have a front porch, and that would be the place you would spend your time between your private world and the public world.

Michael Dolan is the editor of American History Magazine and the author of the book, “The American Porch.”


About this Episode’s Guest Michael Dolan

Michael Dolan is a writer, editor, and musician. He lives in Washington, DC, his hometown. Besides editing American History  magazine, he consults on book manuscripts and documentary television programs, most recently one about wildlife along the Canadian/American border. His articles have run in SmithsonianThe New RepublicThe New YorkerOutside, and The New York Times Magazine, among others. His 1987 Washington City Paper story about Judge Robert Bork’s video rentals caused a furor leading Congress to enact the federal Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988. Between 1983 and 1995, he and his wife renovated a 1920s-era bungalow in a DC neighborhood near the Potomac River. The final step of that process replaced a careworn front porch with one that he designed. The results of that project inspired his 2002 book, The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place. Dolan’s porch occasionally is the scene of rehearsals by his band, The Powerful House Ways & Means Committee.