Old Houses, Hot Summers, and the Sleeping Porch

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, House Styles, Old House History
A Place to Enjoy Those Cool Night Breezes!

A Place to Enjoy Those Cool Night Breezes!

I think I feel a little better after finding out the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that April-June 2010 was the East Coast’s hottest April-June on record. I was starting to think it was just me–perhaps some sort of long-term virus that made me feel like I was locked in a sauna twenty-four hours a day without a key. The good news is that we are through June; the bad news is that it feels like another record might be set by the end of July.

My old house had a sleeping porch up until a couple of months ago. We had a heavy snow (more extreme weather) that partially caved in the roof of the porch this past winter, and I saw no reason to keep it, when I never used it. The porch was on the second floor of the old house and stretched across the entire rear side; it was designed to catch breezes from every direction except the west, which I’m sure made for some comfortable evenings. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but I might have put a little more thought into whether the porch should come down if I had known we were going to be breaking records for heat on a regular basis.

Who Needs Air-Conditioning When You Have a Sleeping Porch?

Air-conditioning is a modern convenience. It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to escape the stifling summer heat of your bedroom and you were lucky enough to have a sleeping porch, you enjoyed the cool night breezes an evening outside could provide. This article about Buffalo, New York, architecture discusses the origins of sleeping porches. Most sleeping porches had roofs for protection from sudden summer thunderstorms

Enjoy Breezes from 3 Directions on this Sleeping Porch

Three Directional Breezes and No Bugs!

and some had open sides, while others had many windows with screens to encourage bugs to find other accommodations.

Sleeping porches were fairly common at one point in our history; they were even constructed on homes in towns and cities. The Newland House in Huntington Beach, California has a virtual tour that includes the old house’s sleeping porch. Jack London used his California sleeping porch on a regular basis and slept there the night before he died.

A Texas blogger has an amusing post about her grandfather and his insistence on using his sleeping porch to nap on hot Texas afternoons, despite having  perfectly good air-conditioning in his home.

I think the stress of our modern lives makes many of us appreciate a time when things seemed less complicated, when people waved from the front porch swings of their old houses as you walked by, and you could fall asleep enjoying the fresh air, cool breezes, and sounds of the night on your summertime sleeping porch.

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  1. 5 Responses  to “Old Houses, Hot Summers, and the Sleeping Porch”

  2. peter henin
    Aug 29, 2011
    Sleeping porch in a second floor it's a good idea...but it should be well painted means it gives the additional warm to all....try that decorated porch...
  3. Jonny
    Aug 29, 2011
    I see many new houses with a second level porch, usually located off of the master BR. I have heard architects and builders describe these as the perfect place for a cup of coffee in the a.m., but it never seemed that realistic.(Why leave your BR and go downstairs to get a cup of coffee and then return upstairs to drink it?) I think these porches need to be reintroduces as sleeping porches, they seem great.
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    I like the idea of a sleeping porch. A sleeping porch on a second floor of a house is not such a bad idea. No one from the street would know anyone was sleeping up there, so I don't think it causes any safety concerns. My grandmother had a second floor porch and I used to fall asleep on the swing up there during the summer time.
  5. Jeremy
    Aug 29, 2011
    A sleeping porch. Never knew thats what they were called. From the picture it looks like a novel idea, that would be perfect for warm nights. The sun is still going to beat down on it at some point during the day though, so a few hours of sauna is going to take place if you don't have AC :)
  6. Aug 29, 2011
    Imagine a time when you didn't have to put double locks on every window and door and set the security alarm before going to bed! Those were the days when you could go to sleep on an outdoor porch and sleep soundly, being relatively certain that the most harm that could befall you during the night would be a few mosquito bites or a rain shower!