New Hampshire Slanguage: Piazza

piazza of Goffstown Historical Society

An example of a piazza, as found on the Goffstown Historical Society building in Goffstown, New Hampshire.

The word, piazza, was well known in New Hampshire in the early 18th century.  Several references are made in newspapers of that time to piazzas found in warmer climates and seemingly indicative of outside living space covered with a roof.  By the 1820s these piazzas begin to be described as attached to the houses, and the word appears to be synonymous with a porch, but mostly in southern states and still in warm locations.

Example of a small covered porch often found at back doors of New England homes, this one at Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Example of a small covered porch often found at back doors of New England homes, this one at Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Prior to the age of Victorian architecture, when outdoor living spaces began to be included in building styles, a ‘porch’ was not uncommon but it was usually found at the back of a New England house, as a place for deliveries to be made, or for the occupants to remove work clothes, or wet/dirty clothing and boots in the winter.

The Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) of September 3, 1825 in a story about the Catskill Mountains, describes a hotel –, “The Catskill Mountain House is 140 feet in front, and has a piazza extending the whole length, supported by 15 Ionic pillars.”

The New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene NH) of January 26, 1827 describes an incident in Cavendish, Vermont: “We mentioned in our list of deaths a few weeks since, that of Mr. Blanchard, which was caused by a stove from the piazza of John Robinson’s tavern….The deceased was passing out of the house into the piazza where a number were engaged in a scuffle and by some means purely unintentional, he was pushed off by a man of the name of Smith; he fell and struck upon the back of his head which in a few days caused his death.”

On November 17, 1828, the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette of Concord New Hampshire announced the erection of a tavern in Andover, New Hampshire on the Fourth N.H. Turnkpike.

On November 17, 1828, the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette of Concord New Hampshire announced the erection of a tavern in Andover, New Hampshire on the Fourth N.H. Turnkpike.death.”

The first incidence that I find of a ‘piazza’ describing a  New Hampshire building is as follows: on November 17, 1828, the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette of Concord New Hampshire announced the erection of a tavern in Andover, New Hampshire on the Fourth N.H. Turnpike.

Houses built during the era of Victorian Architecture, or the Queen Anne style began to have larger front porches, or ‘piazza’ as my grandparents and parents called it.  The smaller ‘back porch’ was never called a piazza, so I assume that this world would only be used to describe a larger covered area where people could gather.

At least into the 1970s my family still called the large front porch, a piazza, while the smaller rear covered area was called the back porch. As time passed and we were all exposed to newspapers, radio and television that emphasized the latter word, so did we too adopt the porch as our favored word.  The term in the 21st century seems to have fallen out of favor, except with the oldest of New Hampshire’s residents, and its use will probably disappear.

***Additional Reading***

The Origins of the American Front Porch

City’s piazzas … er, porches, in limelight (apparently Charleston has piazzas too!)

 Country Life In America, Furnishings for the Piazza (1911)

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One Response to New Hampshire Slanguage: Piazza

  1. I grew up In a house in Beverly, Massachusetts that had a wrap around porch. Everyone called the front porch the piazza, and the back of the house the porch even though it was all the same structure. Nw I know why! Thanks, Janice!

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