Sleeping Porches a Hundred Years Ago

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 18, 1914:  These May days are rather lazy times. I go to bed sleepy; sleep like a top, and get up sleepy.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July ,1914)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July ,1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

 

Life was good! . . Grandma usually had to do so much work. I think this is the first time that she ever sounded like she had some time to relax.

The weather must have been perfect for sleeping. A hundred years ago—in the days before electric fans and air conditioning— sleeping porches were very popular. The Muffly’s didn’t have one, but I thought that you might enjoy seeing pictures of some lovely sleeping porches that were featured in the July, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

1914-07-25 c

1914-07-25 b

1914-07-25 a

46 Responses

  1. I know that summer lazy feeling so well.

  2. It really is nice to hear her sounding mellow!

  3. The (historic) house that my mom grew up in didn’t have a “sleeping porch”, but she told me about them climbing out a window to sleep on the porch. I remember pre-air conditioning days and nights, and they could be uncomfortable!
    Grandma’s sounding content!

  4. My old barn has a wonderful sleeping porch with windows galore. I loved this post! So nice to see other old houses configured sleeping porches. Thanks, Sheryl!

  5. The sleeping porch allowed those harmful vapors to escape during the night. The vapors were bad for your health.

    • You’re absolutely right. . . people worried about indoor air quality back then, and thought that open windows and sleeping porches were important to maintaining good health. My understanding is that some people slept out on sleeping porches even when the weather was quite cold a hundred years ago

  6. Love these old porches!

  7. What a great idea! I had a roommate who used to sleep in a sleeping bag on the balcony of our apartment in the summer!
    Diana xo

  8. Skip and I slept on a sleeping porch in a B&B in Canada. We were charmed and loved our experience.

  9. I loved the wording “I go to bed sleepy; sleep like a top, and get up sleepy” Perfect!

  10. These pictures raise a question for me: how common were window screens a hundred years ago? Seems to me that the top one does and the third one down does not have them.

    When we lived back East we went to tour Cornelius Vanderbilt’s “summer cottage”, the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. It is a 70-room mansion, actually, and one of the things that sticks in my memory about it is that its windows had no screens! My, my, all that money and yet the bugs had free access. (No running water, either. The servants pumped and carried it.)

    • I don’t know how long ago screens became common, but I wonder if the geographic area affected whether or not they had screens. In buggy areas with lots of mosquitoes or flies they may have had screens–and they may have not bothered with them in areas with fewer insects.

      Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that the Vanderbilt’s didn’t have running water–and that they instead relied on the servants to pump and carry it. :)

  11. Perhaps before the gardening gets in full swing there is some down time.

    • Maybe. . . And, now that all that spring houscleaning was finally completed, it doesn’t seem like they would have needed to do much cleaning for at least a month or so.

  12. It sounds like she wasn’t sleeping very well. Sleeping like a top = tossing and turning. Then waking up sleepy.

    • I hadn’t thought of it quite that way–but now that you say it, I bet that you’re right. Your explanation makes perfect sense.

  13. One of my friends in elementary school had a sleeping porch off of her bedroom and I remember how jealous I was that she essentially had two whole rooms to herself, while I was stuck sharing with two much younger siblings! Then, when I learned about, and later visited, Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home at Rocky Ridge Farm (Mansfield, Missouri), I was delighted to know they had built one, too. Their home was completed in 1913 and the sleeping porch extends along the entire side wall of the house. Lovely!

    • The Wilder’s sleeping porch sounds awesome. I’ve also always been a bit jealous of people who had sleeping porches. :)

  14. One of my aunts had a sleeping porch and when we would go to visit her my sister and I slept there…so much fun! These are all nice looking sleeping porches.

  15. I had a friend that had a sleeping porch and my husbands Grandparents had one…what great places to sleep. I would love to have one! I wake up sleepy too…must be the May weather:)

  16. I’ve seen several of the old houses my grandparents lived in as tenant farmers, and some of them had sleeping porches. Mom remembers them well, especially one night when my uncle was sleep walking and fell off. Didn’t wake him up or hurt him a bit. He just couldn’t figure out how he got there the next morning.

  17. i remember seeing sleeping porches. My grandparents’ house had one but not so grand as some of these.

    • I’ve also seen them in older homes. I suppose they quit building them about the time that electric fans (or maybe air conditioners) became popular.

  18. I wish we still had sleeping porches! Blessings, Natalie :)

  19. I always wondered what it would be like to sleep outside like that. They do make a nice addition to the house design.

    • I’ve also wondered. In my imagination, it would be wonderful as I drifted off to sleep as I looked out at the stars–but in reality it might not really be that pleasant because it was too cold, or too windy, or it started raining. :)

  20. We lived in an old house that had one and I loved sleeping out there in the summer months.

  21. Almost every house I’ve lived in has had a screened porch. WHile not designed for sleeping, I have definitely slept out on them. Contentment!

  22. My grandma always said “slept like a top” too!
    And we have a big porch at the cottage, that I’m definitely thinking of making part of it a sleeping porch; this post convinced me!

  23. Sure wish I had a sleeping porch! It definitely sounds like your Grandma would have enjoyed having one also. I have to catch up on what Grandma has been (was) up to. I so miss my blog and blogging friends…been busy…where is that sleeping porch?

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