Last week we visited old Florida Cracker houses and their doors, some with front porches. Today let’s explore classic Southern doors from the late Colonial and antebellum eras. These doors are embellished with a pediment at the top and often flanked by columns, as seen on George Washington’s Mount Vernon, in Virginia.
This entrance is known as the West Front, the entrance that visitors see first as they walk up the long lane and partially around the circle carriage drive. The center door obviously leads into the Central Hall; the other two doors lead directly into the formal dining room (left) and Washington’s study (right).
Perhaps most Americans are more familiar with the iconic East Front and its row of eight columns. In this photograph below, the center door is partially hidden behind the column that is third from the left. Two side front doors provide exits to the porch. In Virginia’s hot summers, opened exterior doors allowed cooling breezes to sweep through from the Potomac River below the bluff down on the east side. I sat in one of the chairs on my visit.
A typical grand Southern antebellum plantation mansion may feature columns across the front of a double verandah. Here, the verandah encircles the entire block house, and simple sidelights (windows) surround the center front doors. Southern summers can be hot and humid, so this design allows for cool respites from a stuffy interior.
Some front doors feature a fanlight at the top, like this one. The screen door, although first introduced in the 1860s, may not be original to the house but have been a later addition. A company of sieve makers in Connecticut began to cover wire cloth with paint to prevent rust and to sell it for window screens.
The antebellum house of one of our country neighbors in Northwest Florida featured a half-round portico porch, similar to the picture below. The house was white, not red brick, and the door was a shiny dark green. The men who worked on the place smoked ham from the owner’s hogs; that wonderful, sweet scent wafting through sun-heated pines is woven into some of my earliest memories. In my childish innocence, I fancied the folks were cooking bacon and toast with jelly all day!
Still grand in its faded splendor, this image evokes haunting memories of a once glorious past. Here, the pediment tops the columned porch, with sidelights surrounding the door. Does anyone still live here, I wonder?
Throughout the southern countryside we may find variations on this theme, in varying stages of disrepair. Here is a sampling, such as this shotgun house with neo-classical detailing found in New Orleans, Louisiana.
A traditional plantation style today, with both front and back doors opened . . .
A 20th-century neighborhood house with classic detailing . . .
I hope y’all have enjoyed this brief but spectacular tour of Southern doors.