Thursday, August 16, 2012

a strange thing

Go for a drive in the country anywhere in the Midwest and you'll see this phenomenon. 

Look closely at these houses--these are located in central Iowa, but I've seen the same design in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. 

Can you see it, reader?  Can you figure out why they do this?  What's your theory?

These country houses all have "front" doors, complete with stoops and steps and little "entrances" to nowhere.  In rural areas there aren't any sidewalks, in fact, each of these houses have garages and separate entrances located at the side or back.  Totally useless doors that don't lead anywhere, why build a house with a door you never use?

I can't believe thousands of folks kept building the same style of house without questioning the functionality (or lack) of this design.  Yet they did.  Were they optimistic that one day the city limits would reach their property and they'd eventually link into a sidewalk?  Were they unable to tweak the urban house design to better suit country living?  Was having a "front entrance" so deeply ingrained in the Midwest psyche?

Spill it, reader.  What do you suppose?


  1. A funny thing --our house was built in 1845, and it has just such a set of stairs to nowhere. In fact, that is the one door we DON'T use. Once a FedEx guy left a package in front of those doors, and we discovered it weeks later.

    I've never understood it either :-)

  2. One of the reasons I like the house we bought is that it does have a walk from the street to our front door. There are rarely sidewalks out here in suburbia, so a lot of the houses only have an entrance through the garage, or a path from the driveway to the front door. To me, it feels more welcoming to guests to have a front door, rather than just assuming that the only people who are going to enter the house will be coming through the garage, or parking in the driveway. (Parking in someone else's driveway is quite presumptuous.)

    So I'll bet the reason for these doors is because people in the Midwest are very welcoming. Either that, or they don't want their guests to see their garage or mud room. Or maybe if someone knocks at that front door, you know it is a stranger, the FBI, or your pastor so you can hide whatever it is you need to hide before you open the door.

  3. How about when you're out on walks or playing in the yard. Aesthetically, I can say I wouldn't want my house to face the road without a door. Is that weird? Haha. I love that you were so curious about this.

  4. You're right! I grew up in MN and everyone had those weird front doors but you never used the front door -- you used the back door, or side door or came in through the garage. I think they built them because they were supposed to.

  5. I don't have any theories about the lack of sidewalks but this reminded me...

    The drive from our house to Grammie's house was about 1/2 an hour down country roads. A house that sat at one corner along the way didn't have a sidewalk, apparently like so many Midwestern rural houses, but it also didn't have steps up to the door. So the door sat 3 or 4 feet above ground level, meaning no one could ever use that door. My memory of seeing that house as we drove by comes complete with a sense of curiosity.

  6. Maybe they had to have the door there in case of a fire.

    I like our house because our front door and the door you come in from through the garage lead to the same place. Then I don't have to tell people what door to use. Otherwise some people feel they shouldn't use the front door and some people feel weird about walking in our garage even if its open.

  7. Tara is on the right track. I remember asking that ? when we bought our old farm house. It seems that, way back when lots of these Midwestern homes were first built, nearly everyone burned firewood for heat. Insurance companies found this to be a high risk so it became implemented that a second door, even if it was not functional looking, had to be added, as a safe escape route. It is still funny that it still is in force. We, however, do still burn firewood, with a fuel oil back-up. You are very observant. You would laugh to see our house. A door here, one there, one facing the road without any steps (the deck I fell through was quickly removed while I was having emergency back surgery)...etc, etc, etc. My man never replaced the steps, but now I hear him talking about actually, finally, building me a sun room. I dare not say that too loud, should he change his mind:~) It's been nearly 10 yrs. since surgery~ and here I thought you were just talking about the porch/mudrooms/snow boot rooms, etc, and the high deck to watch the stars from the bedroom. LOL

  8. It would just be plain WIERD for a house to NOT have a front door! Dang! Every child who draws a picture of a house will include it. Now...the question is...why have so many (of you) stopped using the front door as the main entrance, and, moreso, why no pathway TO the front door...if it rains or snows, people would have a heck of a time getting up to the porch, to the front door....

    Maybe at the time these homes were built, the homebuilders wanted to leave it up to the homebuyer as to how to finish the front of the house...porch or no porch? covered or not? walkway leading to the driveway or out front by the trees? what kind of walkway? Perhaps the homeowner would want some elaborate garden with stepping-stones.

    I don't know.

    But the Front essential, not strange at all.

    Having said all this, I will now confess that I never use my front door...I park in the garage, close the garage door, and go in the house that way, so as not to be seen.
    Because I'm a privacy freak.

    But...guests ALL come to the front door, and trick-or-treaters...and y'know, the general populace...

  9. Because you need a front door for "company" just the way you have a "living room" that nobody ever enters, except on Christmas and other august occasions.

  10. Here's how sick and Iowan I am: it took me the longest time to figure out what you were pointing out. I don't know what your deal is, Green Girl - these houses all look normal to me.

    I must admit, this annoys me, too - once I really think about it. My theory? These are all older homes, built in a time when of course you had a front door for company. They just never really thought through how living in the country, everybody who visits you is already of the back-door ilk. So, the front doors just stopped being used. As long as the door is functional and isn't lacking, oh, steps? It's a good way to know when not to answer the door. Because anybody who comes to that door is probably a salesman or just no good.

  11. Both houses on the farm have useless front doors. The big farmhouse especially....the little house is a bit more functional but it never gets used. 12 years of being with the family and I still don't quite understand.

  12. I'm tellin' not question the Front Door.

    They are symbolic and Magickal. As I said, ask any child to draw a house, and they will usually include a front door. Countries and continents around the world build dwellings with Front Doors.

    Houses in the Midwest also usually have basements and sometimes "crawlspaces"....we in the Southwest usually do not. Here in New Mex, it is extremely rare to find ANY house with a basement. OR an attic. OR, here in Santa Fe Proper, air're not supposed to need it, due to the fact that adobe, (all older homes are made of adobe) in combination with ceiling fans, are sufficient to keep the temperature comfortably cool...the walls in true adobe homes are easily 1 foot+ thick...and all tile floors. People use huge area rugs.

    * : )

    And if nothing else, when you are "substitute-swearing", who says "Shut The Side Door!" *hahahaaaa!!!

  13. I don't get it. Every house should have a front door. Why not? Or you all move in space just with cars, so you use only garage to get inside the house? Or is it the situation when you never have any guests not so familiar to you who don't automatically use back door?

    I'm from Europe, so maybe that's the reason why I don't understand your wonder :-)

    A house without a front door... then I would be surprised...


Spill it, reader.