Arts & Culture

In Celebration of the Front Porch

An annual gathering highlights the South’s storied spot for conversation

In the years after World War II, the number of homes with front porches—structures that trace their lineage back to antiquity—declined as people bought houses in suburbia, central air-conditioning breezed in, and nights huddled around the television became the norm.

Today porches are making a comeback, especially in New Urbanist neighborhoods such as developer Campbell McCool’s Plein Air in Taylor, about ten minutes outside of Oxford. The second annual Conference on the Front Porch (October 18–19)—another McCool brainchild—will celebrate the historic architectural element and the culture it fosters. “A front porch is not just lumber,” McCool says. “It’s a way of life.”

Photo: Joe Worthem

The two-day conference is held in Taylor, Mississippi.

The gathering at Plein Air will include a crew of folks you’d want in the rocking chair next to you: Southern Foodways Alliance director and Garden & Gun contributor John T. Edge will talk regional culinary identity, Mississippi artist William Dunlap will dive into the South’s storytelling tradition, and Alabama architectural-salvage savior Garlan Gudger will share tales from past projects, which involved more than a few resurrected porches.

Nightly entertainment will include a one-man play about William Faulkner (a tour of his nearby home, Rowan Oak, is also on the docket) and live music from Mississippi singer-songwriter Tricia Walker, who has penned hits for Faith Hill and Alison Krauss. Bet you can guess the location of the stage.