Mill Street Blues: Posts, Posts, and More Posts

With the Craftsman bungalow finished, it was time to shift focus back to the wing and gable farmhouse. Winter was fast approaching, and our goal was to complete the work that could not be done in the dead of winter, and/or which could not or should not wait until spring.

First up was to finish the repairs to the front porch that had been started over a year ago. We’re not talking about a big project here—like say, transforming a tiny outdoor sitting nook into a ginormous grand veranda. We just wanted to restore the sizable but simple covered porch to its former understated glory.

Of course, even that modest goal was going to involve more than a bit of scraping and a few cans of paint. We knew this because, at various points over the last century, someone (or several someones) had committed egregious crimes against the home which had compromised both its style and its structural integrity.

Case in point: the seven Tuscan Roman columns. Known to some folks as pillars, these huge, hollow, wooden cylinders were doing their job—that is, holding up the roof of the porch without completely blocking out the sun—but they were doing nothing for the home in terms of curb appeal.

Now, personally, I have nothing against Tuscan, Roman, or even Grecian columns, provided they are attached to a structure that:

  • I do not own
  • I do not have to look at every day
  • is located in Tuscany, Rome, or Greece

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate columns, or that columns have no place in Midwestern farmhouse architecture. In fact, with a large covered front porch being one of the hallmarks of the American farmhouse—and with our greatest scientific minds having yet to to invent a roof that can hover over a porch of its own accord (presumably because they’ve been busy working on self-driving cars) columns are—at least for the foreseeable future—a necessity.

But while I appreciate columns for their ability to hold up a roof and add character to a home per se, I can’t get on board with having seven (seven!) giant, cylindrical columns on the porch of this one and a half story wing and gable farmhouse. They simply don’t belong. Just like they wouldn’t belong on the front porch of an adobe ranch, a Quonset hut, a mobile home, or anything short of a bank, a museum, or the Library of Congress.

One notable exception may be a two-story Greek Revival farmhouse, which theoretically would have the height and breadth to pull off columns of that size and scale.  But even then you would typically see something less ornate and grandiose than a full-on Tuscan Roman colonnade. Think six-by-six or four-by-four posts. Or eight-by-eight barn beams.

In fact, I can think of only three reasons to put these enormous Tuscan Roman columns on the porch of a small wing and gable farmhouse:

You’re broke, and said columns are free on Buy and Sell, Facebook Marketplace, or other social media platform (which we know these were not since their existence predates the sharing economy and all social media platforms except papyrus scrolls and stone tablets)

You’re obsessed with the concept of re-purposing, and there is literally NOTHING else you can think of to do with seven spare Tuscan Roman columns than stand them on your front porch (which is unlikely since it would have much easier to lay them on the ground and use them as tunnels for training small animals, or chop them up and use them as fuel for your furnace—the columns, not the small animals)

You live in an isolated area and said columns are the only material at your disposal when you realize your porch needs work (which is also unlikely since there are no less than 16 stores within a 30-minute drive of this dwelling that sell lumber, and about one hundred times that many very tall trees within a 3-minute walk that easily could be cut down and hewn into lumber over five or six days)

Knowing how the Jarhead and I react when one of us wants to do something completely insane with one of our projects (like when he suggested we just repair the columns instead of replacing them and I suggested he stop drinking in the middle of the day; or when I suggested we repair the columns and re-purpose them to build the world’s first and only Tuscan Roman deer stand and he decided to store them just in case he gets bored and decides to build the world’s first and only Tuscan Roman deer stand) I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the decision was made to install these pillars. I imagine the conversation to have gone something like this:

She: Baby, the porch is in pretty rough shape. Could you please fix it?

He: Sure, honey.

She: Thanks, baby. And maybe instead of 3 or 4 ordinary porch posts you could  support the roof with seven giant Tuscan Roman columns.

He: Why would we do that?

She: Why, to show the neighbors that we are people of great wealth and taste, of course.

He: That’s a great idea! Let’s go shopping for them right now!

But more likely, it went something like this:

She: Baby, the porch is in pretty rough shape. Could you please fix it?

He: Sure, honey.

She (six months later): Baby, the porch is in pretty rough shape. Could you please fix it?

He: Sure, honey.

She:  Thanks, baby. I don’t need you to make it too fancy. Just do what you must to keep the roof from caving in.

He (looking up from his newspaper): You bet, honey. Anything you want.

She (six months after that): Baby, the porch is still in pretty rough shape. Could you PLEASE replace those posts before the roof caves in?

He: (sighing): Fine. (Flips to the Classified section. Finds an ad for seven free/cheap Tuscan Roman columns, then picks them up and installs them while wife is out shopping with her friends…

Fortunately, that is not how it went when we commenced work on the porch in 2018. Instead, the seven Tuscan Roman columns came down—along with the PVC railing and the chain link fence—and four simple, square columns went up in their place.

As he was removing the old columns, however, the Jarhead decided (without prompting, I might add) to look under the porch to see why the floor seemed a bit bouncy. Turns out that someone (probably the same someone who installed the pillars) decided to replace the floorboards when they went bad but did NOT replace the rotten stringers that were supposed to be holding them up. Thus, he had to pull off much of the floor and rebuild the underlying structures before he could replace the columns.

And then winter came, so we had to quit before the stairs could be rebuilt and the painting could be done. Finally, in September of 2019, we got back to work on it, as well as the lawn and the landscaping. Several months and countless hours later, we have four nice new six-by-six columns, a new set of stairs, new wooden railings, and a row of little boxwoods lining the front.


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The unseasonably wet fall weather is complicating our efforts to get it painted. But once we finish painting, lay the mulch, and get the risers on the stairs—assuming it stops raining before the snow flies—that will be one job down and only fifteen left to finish before it’s too cold to work outside.