Summer Architecture – 1910 -1913

What is summer, if not a time to spend outdoors? In earlier times – before air conditioning was introduced – people made the best of the heat of the summer by spending time at the lake, or the beach, or failing that, on a porch or balcony, catching cool breezes and sipping cool drinks, talking with friends and family late into the evening.

In this article we present – from archival photographs – two specialized structures for whiling away hot days: A large airy Pennsylvania porch from 1910 and a wonderful “Inexpensive Tent Cabin for the Summer Season” from Pasadena in 1913.

Enjoy dreaming of a simpler, quieter, more peaceful summer!

A Classically-inspired
Pennsylvania Porch

An airy front porch on a grand scale promises restful relaxation to the lucky folks who take their ease in these wicker chairs.

This porch is on a residence in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and was built in 1910 by Knickerbacker Boyd, architect.

The house itself was designed with stone walls and Classical features such as the Ionic porch columns, and Palladian windows in the stairway of the house (not visible in this photo).

The tongue and groove porch ceiling, painted in a gloss oil base paint, adds a shimmery coolness to the feeling on the porch, while the floor appears to be covered in a sisal matting, which gives a furnished, ‘outdoor room’ level of comfort to the porch, making it an ideal extension of the living space on a hot summer day.

An Inexpensive Tent-House for the Summer Season

Tent houses were popular summer places to live during the 1880 to 1920 period. They were attractive, affordable, and often used for holiday homes or for temporary ‘on-site’ accommodation while a permanent house was being built.

Construction suggestions for building a tent-cabin from 1913 included:

“A good type of tent-house consists of a wooden floor set on foundation posts, with a frame of 2” x 4” studding.

There are two variations of construction that can follow: an all-canvas option, or a combination wood/canvas method.

If the roof is of canvas, a fly is necessary for use in the summer, otherwise the heat could be oppressive. Additionally, a single layer non-waterproofed canvas cover could leak in heavy downpours.

A partial wooden alternative could be made with a partial wooden wall below and canvas above, and a shingle roof. Interior partitions were made of canvas or “art-burlap” nailed on to wooden frames.”

In 1913, in Pasadena, this summer shelter cost $ 300. to build: Lumber was
$ 100.; Labour was $ 75.; Plumbing $ 100., and Canvas was $ 25.

The exterior of the Tent-House was covered in striped canvas – probably in green and white stripes – with real windows and a screen door.

The interior of the Tent-House was furnished with cozy divans for sleeping and kerosene lamps for light. The partitions are also covered with striped canvas

Left: The porch of the Tent-House had a canvas cover and potted plants.
Right: A more complicated arrangement than first imagined is shown by the floor plan of the Tent-House.

Tent cabins, by the very nature were temporary, and ephemeral. Sometimes photographs or occasional water-colour paintings are all that is left to remind us of this delightful form of housing.