Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Those with keen eyes (ahem Ross), will surely have noticed that the porch we happen to be building is not quite the one the house was born with.

But in fact, the beautiful porch photo I'm so fond of posting isn't the porch the house was born with either.

Thornfield, approximately 1915

This grand ol' dame has had some serious work done over the years.

Thornfield, approximately 1886

Then she let herself go entirely...

2010, as purchased (fence was added by us)

Thornfield used to be comprised of a rather large estate, with the house facing down the hill, towards what soon became the Westinghouse Switch and Signal (where Tesla worked in 1888, Nikola Tesla has seen my house!!!).  When Kelly sold the house in 1911, he also subdivided the estate into smaller parcels, both above and below the main house.  These lots continued to be built up with small capes and foursquares until the 30's.  Looking at the historic photo with the white trim, the original porch entrance was under the gable roof on the porch, directly in front of the entry doors, with a hidden stair on the other end of the porch.  The second owners undertook a massive campaign to colonial revivalize the house, and added the gorgeous curved stairs to the gazebo, and closed in the original stairs with a paneled balustrade (and possibly extended the porch deck past the roof).

In this modern age however, neither stair will work.  The first iteration would force people to walk around the entire front of the house, into a very narrow side yard to enter the house.  The second stair actually curves away from the main walking path directly into the path of my favorite oak tree and down a very steep hill.

Hill, Tree, and a long wet walk from the sidewalk and driveway

My solution is to duplicate the original gable on what is now the main facade of the house, closer to the sidewalk and driveway, and adding a bit of detail to what was originally the side of the house.  The entry doors are being rebuilt in their original location. The stairs will be simple and cheap at this stage, at some distant point we'll duplicate the curvaceous stone stairs from the teens.

I don't often say this about substantial changes I'm making to the house, but I feel fairly confident this is the right path.


  1. It would be theoretically possible to run a walkway up from the street to the original front entrance and I've seen houses set up like that, but they're on much smaller lots than yours, and of course that steep slope would require a formidable flight of steps. If you did that it would cost a lot and no one but the mailman would ever use the front door.

    1. Well, everyone would still be using the front door, because the only other one is the kitchen door which leads to the backyard. Those stairs would be especially expensive given the lawsuits likely to occur when I forgot to salt them!

  2. Fascinating! Thank you!

    I had no idea that the porch in the "fond" photo wasn't the original porch configuration!

    One thought, if I may?

    Would you consider, rather than creating two porch gables, creating just one over the new stairs?

    The original gable "announced" the porch stairs, and the front entrance.

    But with the stairs being relocated, a gable above the new stairs seems ideal, but then do you need another gable around the corner?

    And one less gable also means a bit less money!

    1. It would save $1200 to be exact ;-) But looking at this puzzle for so many years has led me to think the two gables lend a nice balance and historic progression to the porch, even if I'm the only one who notices!

    2. Plus, you'd presumably have stairs down to something in the original location, right?

    3. Those stairs won't be getting rebuilt. There a stunning (and enormous) ancient hydrangea that was planted when they moved the stairs which would be in the way - we've gone through great pains to preserve it. We're also not sure where the new fence line will be, and there's a good chance that the stairs would end up in the backyard which is a no go given my gigantic nutty dog.

  3. I like your final design quite a lot. It balances the functional needs of the current environment with the architectural intent of the original design. I think the two gables flanking the conical roof also compliment the same massing of the house itself, with gables balancing the two sides of the corner tower.

    I'm excited to see how this comes together. I also hope that when you're done, you find the people who complimented your "deck" and ask what they think.

    1. Truthfully, they're more likely to be disappointed with the lack of outdoor kitchen and colored LED lighting then they are to be impressed with a victorian porch ;-)

  4. Great research on your house. Nice seeing all the various phases it's been through. And your porch design is even better than any of the former porches in the old photos!

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