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Why Does My Old House Have Two Front Doors?

Why Does My Old House Have Two Front Doors?Lots of old homes have the mysterious second front door. Some were added in renovations over the years, but others are original.

The explanations for these original double doors are all over the map. Many folks finally give up hope of finding an answer to this architectural mystery, but I have some ideas for you.

If your old house has two front doors, there are a number of reasons. Depending on your home’s style, age, location and size the answer might be different.

Some of the explanations can range a bit on the mythology side, whereas others seem more logical. I’ve included the most likely theories here. Let’s see if we can’t unravel this quirky architectural anomaly once and for all.

Theory #1 Symmetry

Old homes in the Georgian, Adams or Federal styles are built on rigid rules of symmetry. The front facade, especially, must be perfectly symmetrical and sometimes rather than have a single door in the center of the house, two mirror image front doors gave not only a more pleasing design, but added utility. If your house is built in these formal styles from the 1700s to the early 1800s, this might be a likely explanation.

Theory #2 Ventilation

Old houses didn’t have air conditioning and therefore have vastly more windows to help keep the structure cool on muggy summer nights. Many second front doors on homes, particularly Bungalows, lead from the front porch to the master bedroom. This way, couples could open the windows and doors, turn on a couple fans and enjoy a cooling breeze. This design was kind of a poor mans sleeping porch.

Theory #3 Formal vs Everyday

I have the good fortune of having a neighbor who has lived in his house since he was born 90 years ago. And his house has two front doors. So, while researching for this article, I stopped by to ask what his family had used them for. His response was interesting. “Other than Sundays and when my parents had visitors we weren’t allowed to use the [formal] door. We never asked why. That was just the way Mom and Dad wanted it.”

So, apparently some houses reserved the formal entry for special events and visitors. This makes sense in the homes where the second front door leads to a bedroom.

Theory #4 Rooms to Rent

Another theory that makes sense to me was that often these double front doors were to allow the owners to rent out a room if needed. Whether it was for a stranger to help cover household costs, or a young couple just getting started, the two front doors allowed for a bit more separation and privacy. The second front door allowed easy access to a bedroom without disturbing the home’s owners.

What do you think?

I know there are plenty of other theories about why an old home might have two front doors. Maybe you know one that I haven’t heard. It may be that you have access to someone who knows the truth, definitively. I’d love I hear any other ideas in the comments below. Let’s hear your thoughts and try to crowdsource an answer to this architectural mystery.

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129 thoughts on “Why Does My Old House Have Two Front Doors?

  1. Yes, my grandmothers both had double front doors, and one was for the parlor, or sometimes called the “courtin’ parlor”.

  2. I grew up in a bungalow built by my grandfather in 1927. It had two front doors…one into the living room and one into the front bedroom, which was my room. I was always told that my room was called the bachelor’s room and the door gave him access for his comings and goings without disturbing the rest of the family.

  3. I live in a home built in 1901 in Southern Ohio. Our front porch has 4 entry doors. One leads into the kitchen. One into the formal dining room. One into the parlor and one into our master bedroom. I’ve often wondered why there are so many doors.

  4. I just love the two front door homes, I think it was for the gentleman to use the left door to go into the parlor to smoke pipes and cigars, the other door was for the woman to go into the part of the house that led to the kitchen.

    1. The real reason why older homes have two front doors one was used for Births and deaths only, and the other was for coming and going, Your every day use door

  5. My great grandmother lived in a home that had two doorway’s. She had told the family when asked why the double door’s in front of the house. She said back in the day it originated from the idea that it was superstitious to walk out the same door you walked into. That by walking into a door you came as company to visit and was welcome but turn and leave in the same door in a manner of hostel or hate in any manner of it was to place bad luck on a person. Now I have searched this legend and yet to find it to be so.

  6. I’m renovating my 1900 farm house and after pulling some old paneling from a front room I found a second door that leads to the original porch or entryway. My friend that’s in construction said that most people years ago had their funerals at their home instead of a funeral home and one door was used as an entrance and the other was the exit for people coming and going.

  7. These comments have really been eye-opening for me. I am a former president of the Sanderson Museum, a history museum in Chadds Ford, on the Brandywine River in south- east PA. A once very heavily Quaker area, the large house museum was built in 1852.
    The house is stucco over fieldstone or rubble stone.
    It also has 2 front doors. The Chadds Ford Historical Society also once told us it was a “funeral parlor” door.
    I’m now inclined to think it was just a more formal parlor for company.
    Thank you fellow historians.

  8. We bought a very old house on a farm. It has two equal doors in the front. When we first saw the house, elderly owners had one of those front rooms as a parlor with ornate and very nice furniture. The other was a family room.

    1. That,s exactly what I was told when we bought a old farm house in 1978. We still live there left the two doors alone and get complements all summer long from people who remember these homes. I was 26 then I will be 68 next week. Love this old house.We still use the original spring on the farm across the hill that is piped into the house since the 20,s no filters used for everything. The old farmer who sold us the house took me up to the headwaters of the spring, lifted a rock and showed me a black and white salamander. Told us as long as they live there the water is good. Salamander still lives there and the water always tests good.

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