Summer Living: The Summer Porch

We’ve been enjoying cool breezes the past two days after a streak of hot and humid Midwestern weather. This unexpected cool down has brought many of us outside to enjoy the fresh air away from our air conditioned homes.

All that fresh air had our minds turning back to the days before air conditioning was standard in houses, apartments, and businesses. The time when outdoor porches became an extra living space in warm weather.

As Davenport expanded in the late 1800s into the early 1900s, people moved farther away from downtown with its apartment buildings and small houses built close together. They moved north towards Locust Street and into the hills of East Davenport. These developing areas provided shady trees, houses spread further apart, and the ability to catch a breeze was a little easier than the more crowded downtown area.

These new subdivisions featured houses with front porches that were covered against sun and rain. With chairs, tables, shades, plants, and rugs added during the summer months; it became an oasis from the stuffier rooms inside.

Larger homes built by wealthier residents featured not only front porches, but sun rooms and back patios as well to relax or entertain in.

Fortunately for us, it was also a wonderful place to have photos taken with natural light so their beauty has been preserved in photographs. We thought we would share a few images from our collection to remember this warm weather living space.

Mrs. Mary Burdick of 105 College Avenue is featured in her home’s sun room or rear porch. Her husband, Anthony Burdick, was president of the First National Bank in Davenport. Taken about 1910, this photo shows a well-to-do home with separate seating and work areas and curtained windows or screens. The modern address is 833 College Avenue.

Mrs. Anthony Burdick c. 1910. DPLVolume 55. Image dplx535b.

Mr. & Mrs. Julius Hasler had their photo taken on their porch between 1901 and 1908. Located at 1002 Brady Street, you can see the details of a brick porch column and the large window that would have allowed air and sunlight into the home.

Hanging swings were very popular as they not only allowed for swinging and enjoying a summer breeze, but also were found to be easy to clean under and store in the winter months. Seat cushions and pillows made the swing a pleasant place to relax.

Plants (especially ferns) were frequently found on porches as they added color, nature, and a little privacy if strategically placed on railings.

The Hasler home was torn down in 1920 with the expansion of the Palmer Chiropractic College campus.

Julius and Josephine Hasler c. 1901 – 1908. DPLVolume 32. Image dplx529-4.

The picture of what appears to be a mother and young infant is labeled as belonging to George McCandless. It most likely dates to circa 1910 and is a wonderful examples of a middle class family in Davenport at that time. The picture window on the right of the image is smaller than that of the Hasler family. Possibly indicating a newer built home or a home of more modest means.

The porch swing is well padded with a cushion and pillow. Besides the woman and child, the wooden shade is a main focus of the picture for researchers. These shades were extremely popular in the early twentieth century as they could be raised and lowered depending on the needs of the family. Linden wood and bamboo were two popular materials used for porch shades.

Porch shades were very popular in neighborhoods where the houses might be located closer together. They provided privacy, but also allowed for air and light to circulate on the porch. Shades also gave protection from glaring sunlight during the brightest part of the day.

Photo of woman and infant labeled George McCandless c. 1910. DPLVolume 57. Image dplx54..

We feel certain that parents loved a large porch in the summer (or maybe year round) for growing children. A place for them to play, read, or relax outside of the house. This picture of the E. A. Young family shows four children on a roomy porch.

The door on the right rear of the photo indicates the porch was most likely screened making the summer nights even more enjoyable without mosquitoes and flies joining your gathering.

Well placed area rugs could be swept clean while allowing a comfortable place for children to play. The furniture is placed against the walls of the house to allow for greater space.

The size of the porch indicates it most likely was part of a larger family residence. We aren’t sure if the size of the porch or the hair bows impressed us more.

E. A. Young family. ca. 1912. DPLVolume 71. Image dplx696a.

We thought we would end with this picture of Lavonius W. Petersen and his wife, Annette. This couple had their photo taken about 1905 at about the ages of 77 and 74. They are pictured in a peaceful setting surrounded by plants and trees with a comfortable rug beneath their feet while relaxing on a beautifully crafted porch. While we know the couple lived at 530 Western Avenue, we do not know if the picture was taken there or not as no porch exists today at that location.

This couple, who had raised seven children with three surviving in the 1900 United States Census, look as though they had earned the right to relax in this beautiful setting and reflect on their many years and experiences together.

L. W. Petersen ca. 1905. DPLVolume 51. Image dplx490.

We hope you have a chance to enjoy this beautiful summer weather and maybe have created an oasis of your own to enjoy. Remember to take a picture to save for future generations!

(Posted by Amy D.)

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