Here at the FEND Test Lab, (AKA my 100 year-old Colonial Revival) we’ll be tackling our outside space this month with a ongoing overhaul of the porch that runs the length of the side of the home. The home was built in 1913 with the porch open and overlooking the Mount Holyoke range, the Connecticut River and the rolling acres of dairy farmland that once abutted Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.The view today is now obscured by tall black walnuts and pines.
Southwest view of the house circa 1913. The porch is in it’s original state and would have had an unobstructed view of the Mt. Holyoke range.
100 years ago, the northern winter wind would have bombarded the porch and the two sets of French doors which open to the living room. The setting summer sun would have emblazoned the occupants of the porch and made it unbearable to sit outside.
By the 1920’s, screening had been added to the porch for bug control.
When we purchased the home in 2007, we were able to see the potential of the porch which had been fully enclosed in the 1950’s. Heavy, custom-made walls were erected around the gorgeous pillars and screens were framed and hung to keep insects away. Giant aluminum roll-up awnings attached to the outside of the columns hung dilapidated and broken. Birds found refuge in crevices and nooks, building an intricate community of nests. The porch was cavernous with little light – not my ideal outdoor retreat whatsoever. After hours of wielding sledgehammers and Sawzalls, we dismantled the structures, which in their hay day, were an impressive feat of carpentry.
By 2007, the enclosed porch was in need of some TLC, to say the least.
The porch became an open space again, it’s columns and railing finally free to the air after half a century. As we sat sweaty and tired, there was a quiet appreciation for restoring the porch to the way it was built 100 years ago and also for the evolution of design it had undergone. An unearthing of an unusual time capsule in an ordinary place. This is why I love old, grand things.
Removing the custom made walls, the columns and railings were discovered intact. Preparations are underway for painting.
For the next three years, the porch then sat open and in need of a serious reconditioning and painting. There was a sort of shabby charm the cracking paint and weathered floors presented as we sat in rockers drinking coffee or hosting dinner parties in late spring. I guess you could say the evolution of the porch became our evolution, as our homes often do. Life collided with good intentions and we were comfortable just existing with porch the way it was.
The current state of the porch has served it’s purpose for all residents in the home.
Now, the next step in the porch’s journey will take place over the next few weeks. Finally, new white paint, and glossy grey floors will put the finishing touch on one of my home’s favorite places. Stay tuned for the ‘after’ transformation shots. Thanks for reading. -Michael
The north end of the porch overlooking the trees that weren’t there 100 years ago.