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Behind the Scenes: Jamestown Porch

The Net Zero house gets a handsome place to sit a spell

One of the elements of the Jamestown Net Zero house that’s sure to evoke the 100-year-old house’s origins is the front porch. Although the front porch had been enclosed by the time architect Don Powers and his wife, Dana, purchased the house, the renovation plans included an open porch.

Don designed porch columns with a subtle flare at the top, and a square base that rests on a 2x12 mahogany rail. To get the details just right, Jeff Sweenor milled the handsome columns—which are made of moisture-resistant radiata pine—and the rail in his shop, then his team carefully installed the elements on-site. The distinctive, black-painted columns and rail create a welcoming presence for the house, not to mention the promise of many pleasant hours of feet-up relaxation to come, once the project is complete.

At the time the house was originally built, the era of the front porch was in full swing in Jamestown, RI, and throughout the United States. Nearly every house style commonly in existence from the 1800s through the early 1900s had a front porch, for the simple reason that people walked as the main form of transportation, and they entered and exited the house by the front door. So the front porch was not only functional, but also deserved architectural prominence.

This Jamestown house dates from the early 1900s, an era when this neighborhood of modest houses in close proximity would most likely have made for many interchanges from the front porch as neighbors passed by on foot. Today, the scale of the street remains modest, with houses still fairly close, and the front porch—at least on this house—is coming back!