A few mornings ago, I stepped out my front door here in Warwick Woodlands, and there was neighbor Donna talking to neighbor Anna over the porch railing. Just the sight of them gave me a pleasant little frizzon — that “electric feeling behind the navel” that informs me that something profound is speaking to me.

Neighbors Donna and Anna having an early-morning chat.

Neighbors Donna and Anna having an early-morning chat. Note the Moravian star, a frequent porch feature here at Moravian Manor/Warwick Woodlands

I’ve always loved porches. Even more than decks and patios, those other places where the indoors and outdoors meet each other. Porches open up the private space of the home to the public space of the neighborhood. When Stuart and I take an evening stroll, we often pass by neighbors reading in a rocking chair or others playing cards or sharing drinks and snacks with friends.

One of the stories I remember from our early conversations about moving here was that when Moravian Manor submitted the plans before building this village, the Lititz town council specified that the community must look like the rest of this quaint, beautiful, “cool,” small town. What are the distinguishing marks? Three things.

Tree-lined streets and sidewalks

Lemon Stree between Moravian Manor and downtown Lititz is beacutifully shaded by a variety of trees.

Lemon Street between Moravian Manor and downtown Lititz is beautifully shaded by a variety of trees.


This Victorian house on Broad Street always catches my eye.

This Victorian house on Broad Street always catches my eye.

And old-fashioned street lamps


These Warwick Woodlands street lamps are a pretty good copy of the distinctive, historic ones downtown.

These Warwick Woodlands street lamps are a pretty good copy of the distinctive, historic ones downtown.

Lititz lamp post outside the historic Littz Springs National Bank (now Commonwealth National Bank). This building reminds me of the

Lititz lamp post outside the historic Littz Springs National Bank (now Commonwealth National Bank). This building reminds me of the Bedford Falls bank in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I’m so glad that the town and the village came to an agreement on these three distinguishing characteristics. We are relishing all of them.

But especially the porches.

Our porch has a special feature. It looks directly over the bank of mailboxes. Everyone on Osprey St. comes by to insert or pick up mail every day.


Viewing the mail delivery from the glider on the front porch.

Viewing the mail delivery from the glider on the front porch.

So if we sit on the porch, we get to greet all the neighbors and the delivery person. We can pretend we’re at the village well.

We can pretend we are Frog and Toad.


Or as writer Cynthia Staples says,

“I have no doubt that for a long time to come, people in the South will still leave the privacy of their home for the community of their porches, for a little fresh air, a little conversation, to play with a friend or—as my younger brother and I used to do—to settle into a chair, close our eyes, and dream.”

Do you have a front porch? Have you ever had one? Does your town or city feature porches, or trees, or light posts — or something entirely different? Please share porch stories if you have them. Does “porch culture” exist where you live?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Betty Schrag on August 19, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    The porch swing and front porch or two things that sold my husband and I on the Craftsman house we bought. It’s where we got to know our neighbors and the neighborhood. I frequently have friends come over for a “porch sit.” It’s where I sit with my cup of coffee in the morning and listen to the birds and watch the squirrels chase each other up and down the trees. My granddaughter wraps her dolls up in the quilt that hangs over the back of the swing and sings. And last week I had a birthday high tea for a friend who turned 80 and all 9 of us went out on the front porch and had a cherry spitting contest! Our porch is my favorite room of the house!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 8:02 am

      I laughed out loud about the cherry spitting contest, Betty. You have so much joie de vivre! And your story captures so many of the reasons porches are wonderful. They can be private (when no one except the squirrels is with you), private-in-public as in the case of your granddaughter, and totally public, as in the case of the very high tea party. The favorite room. I like that. Thanks for starting the conversation.

  2. Elfrieda Schroeder on August 19, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Shirley, it looks like you have chosen a lovely place for your retirement home! I never lived in a house that had a front porch, but I had a cousin who lived on a farm and their house had a front porch that ran the length of the house. My cousin, my sister and I would spend hours playing on that porch, pretending we were on a ship sailing across the ocean. Made for some great memories!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 8:09 am

      I am glad this post helped prompt the memories of that wrap-around porch, Elfrieda. How wide your imaginations were! You are indeed enjoying our new home. Next time I sit on the porch I will think of three Canadian girls sailing across the ocean!

  3. Maren C. Tirabassi on August 20, 2021 at 7:09 am

    I love porches and have often been saddened by the nuclear family focus of decks (patios before them) and now fire pits, such inward looking places. Nevertheless in Portsmouth which has the lamp posts and plenty of tree-lines streets, there are still many and it is a walking around culture (with or without dogs) in the evening and we can greet many. My childhood memories of Iowa front porches — ours and my grandmother’s — contain so many precious moments.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 9:42 am

      Maren, what an interesting observation. We had a deck we loved (and no front porch) on the house we left behind in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We often invited friends to join us, so it still seemed somewhat public. However, it was not available as a way to converse with passersby, possibly inviting them to “sit a spell.” (Now I wonder where that phrase came from.) I love the “walking around culture” we are apparently both enjoying.

      P.S. Your poem about Afghanistan was so beautifully expressed. I shared it on FB and many people expressed appreciation for words that touched their helpless form of pain. Thank you.

  4. melodiemillerdavis on August 20, 2021 at 7:44 am

    I love your post and the photos and the memories it evokes.

    We have a long porch running the length of our house. Yesterday Stuart and I used it to snap beans for canning. We use it less than we should. When the grandsons come, they run races on it, blow bubbles, and practice casting fishing rods. And of course use the porch swing, which still fits all five. On vacation together this summer, the final morning of our stay, they plopped themselves on the swing there, all five and the grown ups all grabbed for their phones. 🙂 I know the porch will figure strong in their grandma and grandpa memories.

    I grew up with a porch on our farm in Indiana and loved everything about it except for cleaning it in summer. On our porch swing we’d wait for the bus to appear before heading 25 feet to the road. Before my next oldest sister went to school, she sat on that swing desperately trying to pronounce her middle name, Marie, thinking she would have to give her full name to the teachers, or someone, and getting very frustrated because she simply couldn’t quite get it. Yes, you’ve inspired many memories. I may want to borrow your topic sometime!!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 9:48 am

      Melodie, one good thing about topics is that they are in the public domain. 🙂 Feel free to take this one up yourself. I think it would actually make a great nonfiction book. Maybe a trip across the country to visit houses with great porches and great porch stories. (Can you tell I just attended a CNF conference called HippoCamp?) I would love to see the picture of all your grandchildren on the swing. What a practical way to wait for the bus, especially on hot or cold or rainy or snowy days. Another virtue of the porch –its roof and protective walls on one or more sides.

  5. Sarah Buller Fenton on August 20, 2021 at 8:21 am

    Our house, which was my maternal grandparents’ house, has a front porch that spans the width of the house. In my grandparents’ day, the porch featured a swing at one end and a hammock at the other end with 2 rocking chairs in between. Frequently, the extended family/guests would gather for an evening meal on the porch in the summer, the kids straddling the foot wide bannisters with their plates between their legs and the adults would have their plates on their laps or tray tables. The children often sat on the front porch with my grandfather “counting the Fords” that went by or running out to the edge of the yard to see the trains going through town 3 blocks away. Right now, the porch is a workshop as Curt works on rehabbing the siding and other exterior areas of the house. We live in the original town with many large, hundred year old trees. Unfortunately, due to age and storms many of the old trees have fallen or been cut down. We have replaced the old trees we have lost. For good or bad, the old street lights have been replaced with newer technology. Someday the porch will return to its original intent with the rehabbed swing and rocking chairs. Maybe we can “count the Fords” with our grandchildren. (We do that now with them when we visit in Harrisonburg.) The new trees are doing well, but no more trains going through Tremont.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 10:00 am

      Wonderful stories, Sarah. I can just visualize the whole family gathered around those fixtures of swing and hammock and rockers and wide bannister, enjoying good food and each other. Tremont sounds like it has some features in common with Lititz. Porches make great workshops and landing spaces while renovation is taking place. Another of their many valued features.vOh yes, and “counting the Fords.” My brother and I had a version of this game which we played on the front lawn (the porch being too far from the road). We called out the year, make, and sometimes, model, of the next car coming down the road, trying to be first to get it right. In the 50s and 60s, of course, that’s what designers were trying to do. Be different from all others. Now most cars look very similar to me. I don’t think I could count the Fords. 🙂

  6. Laurie Buchanan on August 20, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Shirley — I love the photographs you shared of the three must-have elements: tree-lined streets, porches, and old-fashioned street lamps. You and Stuart clearly landed right side up. I’m so happy for you!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 10:31 am

      We did land right side up, Laurie. And you have your own version of the three elements, I am sure. I love your photos of walking your muse in Boise. I know you live in a very small place. Is it called a carriage house? That’s what ours is called.

  7. Judy Sargent on August 20, 2021 at 10:35 am

    We live in another Lititz retirement community and while there are some front porches here, there are probably more patios and balconies. However, we learned from one of our neighbors (who has four siblings/in-laws living in various Lancaster County retirement communities) that you can gather intentionally in any available space to engage in “porching”! That family has used actual porches, sunrooms, lounges, nursing unit gathering spaces, etc. to spend time together on a weekly basis. The passers-by element may have been missing, but the relationship-nourishing aspect stayed alive and well. COVID posed challenges but, nevertheless, they persisted.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 2:05 pm

      Hail fellow Lititz-ite Judy. My mother is at Landis Homes and enjoys her balcony, more for fresh air than for fellowship, but it’s all good. People reading this comment might think that we either live in a metropolitan area — if four siblings can find different retirement communities in the same county. If so, they must not be aware of just how many retirement communities are here! (26) LC always ranks in the top 5 in the U.S. News survey. I applaud any group that figures out how to “porchify” life and ,nevertheless, Persists!

  8. June Vander-Hoek on August 20, 2021 at 10:55 am

    Hi Shirley, thank you for sharing your story about porches. I enjoy the style of a front porch, the protection that it gives to your guests as they come in. A porch says, welcome, come and sit for a while. My Mom would often bundle us kids up and put the baby carriage out on the front porch. Alas, my current home doesn’t have a front porch.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you, June, for contributing here. You would enjoy the various signs that adorn the walls of the porches here. All are variations of welcome, come on in and rest awhile. Maybe you will figure out a way to “porchify” your life without an actual porch. I’ll bet you already do!

  9. Elaine Mansfield on August 20, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    Porches are essential, if you ask me. Both sets of grandparents sat on the porch in the evening all summer. My home is about 200 years old. There are two old fashioned porches blocked from wind on 2 sides, one at the front entrance and one off the kitchen. There’s also a sunset deck facing southwest accessed from my office. My favorite porch is the one off the kitchen facing the east and south. It gets early morning sun and afternoon shade. My Monarch nursery is there and a few chairs for sitting with friends. Since my closest neighbor lives 1/3 mile away, there’s no sidewalk.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 20, 2021 at 9:44 pm

      What a great set of memories, Elaine. I wonder what your grandparents did every evening. And I have a vivid picture of where you can go, sunrise to sunset, around your house to catch the light and/or shade you want. You live so close to nature. I imagine that the porches are essential in maintaining that closeness.

  10. Nancy Leatherman on August 20, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    I live a few miles south of you in Brighton. I love having a front porch! Mine has with a bistro table and two chairs – a great place for coffee and breakfast – along with a child’s table, which my children used. Now my two young grandchildren enjoy eating an ice cream cone or sandwich there. The wrought iron bench with brightly colored pillows invites a guest or two to sit and chat. I love having pots of summer flowers which add cheerfulness, too.
    By your photos I can see you are settled in a beautiful spot! May you enjoy many years together back in Lititz!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 21, 2021 at 2:47 pm

      Nancy, how delightful that three generations of your family are able to enjoy the front porch of your home. It sounds so inviting. The pots of summer plants you mention add so much. On our walks I pay close attention to the furniture and decor of other porches. We have ordered a set of glider chairs, but they won’t be available until next January, so I am like the gardener who spends the last month of winter drooling over seed catalogs.

      Where is Brighton? I don’t think I have heard of it in PA. I know Brighton, UK, but that is more than a few miles away!

  11. Kathleen Pooler on August 21, 2021 at 12:04 am

    I’ve given a lot of thought to your front porch wisdom snd it has taken me back to my own memories of lingering on different front porches throughout all my travels through four states and full circle back home again. I think my favorite one was at the farm where we could look out at the trees and listen to the birds.What a lovely community you have settled into. We don’t have a front porch in our new apartment but we do have a small patio where we can relax in our white wicker rocking chairs!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 21, 2021 at 2:51 pm

      Kathy, you have a host of porch experiences and memories to draw upon. I am sure you miss the farm for many reasons, I know I always enjoyed seeing your pictures on FB. Once a farm girl, always a farm girl.

      I am sure you are making new friends in your new community, even without the aid of a front porch. You are one of the sweetest people I ever met, bo you will always have friends.

  12. Henry H Hershey on August 21, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    Your younger brother remembers the balcony above the Victorian porch (Spahr Farm). Not a place of community commerce, but a place of childhood adventure, sleeping on mattresses placed on the balcony when the house was hot and air conditioning had not yet been conceived. Oh, those summer nights.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 21, 2021 at 9:20 pm

      Oh yes. The adventure of dragging the mattresses out and sleeping with the sounds of cicadas in our heads, waking up to damp sheets from the dew. Such a vivid memory. Air conditioning doesn’t compare for drama. Thanks, younger brother!

  13. Yvonne Ransel on August 22, 2021 at 10:16 am

    I wrote this for the Elkhart Truth in 2015:Pleasures of Porches
    When I posted a photo of my guest-ready screened porch on Facebook a few weeks ago, it conjured up fond memories of other porches in other times. I grew up on a cobble stone street where the lots were small and tidy and everyone had a large front porch. We didn’t have porch swings, but gliders, where we sat on summer evenings and watched the goings on of a neighborhood of second generation immigrants. Ours was red vinyl and I can see my dad sitting there with his cigarette and evening coffee like it was yesterday. I would have to be home “before the street lights came on” and he would be waiting until I turned the corner, pedaling crazily on my bike with only one gear.
    My grandmother’s grand brick house had a swing on her front and back porches and I spent hours on each — reading, giggling with my cousins or listening to the soothing murmur of family conversation. My mother was happiest when we visited there, since she was torn from her small hometown and transplanted to a big city two hours away. The wall behind the swing outside the butler’s pantry in back was ivy-covered and provided a cocoon-like feeling when I daydreamed there.
    My favorite porch, however, was the long and narrow one on the second floor of my grandmother’s house. Because it was a duplex, my aunt and her family had a large kitchen, a bath and two bedrooms up and shared the living room and dining room downstairs with my grandparents. The porch was replete with gliders and daybeds and we would sleep out there on warm summer nights. I can still here the buzz of the radio in the kitchen window while my Uncle Sam listened to Pirates’ baseball games with a bottle of Rolling Rock.
    I welcomed porch memories on my Facebook post and smiled at the simple things my friends mentioned — one loved watching thunderstorms with her father, one’s grandmother had a six foot wide “storm” porch where she would go every morning to assess the weather, another remembered having sleepovers and playing 45 records over and over and yet another is loving her first one as her meditation place.My sister is drawing up plans in her mind for a new one and is already furnishing it with calming colors and candles.
    Another friend asked if my parents had a back “stoop”and I said, “Of course, how could I have forgotten that?” It was off the kitchen with access to the garden and the metal garbage cans. A clothesline hung from its corner column to the side of the detached garage and herbs were in pots on its railing. It was where my mother held court and could watch us playing in the yard or supervise us in the kiddy pool or yell at us to get away from her precious rose bushes.
    I’ve seen porticos in France and verandas in the South and even colonnades in Italy and they were all grand and beautiful, but nothing can compare to my screened porch – where I while away a summer afternoon reading or listen to rain on its roof or watch the sunset over the river channel with a glass of wine.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 22, 2021 at 1:45 pm

      Yvonne, what a lovely article. Thank you for sharing it here. It reads like a compilation of all the above memories and usages. We have ordered four gliders and can’t wait to sit outside as soon as weather permits next spring. You also connected the street lights to the porches. I walked with my granddaughter at dusk the first night of the full moon. We were able to see the lights as they flicked on. Very exciting. As was the moonwalk. 🙂 That’s the other feature of this new village: totally flat sidewalks.

      The upstairs porch is another thing we share. See my brother’s comment just above. I just LOVE that last sentence.


Leave a Comment