This Is Why Some Southern Houses Have a Porch Door, or “Hospitality Door”

In Charleston, South Carolina, "hospitality doors" helped neighbors know when to stop by.

For those of us that have settled down in the suburbs, the sentiment of “knowing your neighbor” means a lot. Living in a tight-knit neighborhood often creates close family friends, the ones you play outdoor games with and invite to backyard barbecues. In the neighborhood I grew up in, doors were rarely shut and locked during the day—and even if they were, neighbor kids were welcome to ring the doorbell and see who was home.

Times have changed, though. In a lot of neighborhoods, the front doors stay locked. But in the South, you’ll likely still see some open front doors, though, especially if they lead to the porch.

If you see a green porch light, this is what it means.

What Are Hospitality Doors?

You’ve probably come across the phrase “Southern hospitality,” which describes the welcoming nature of people in Southern states—doors and arms wide open. But unless you’re from the South, or have experienced Southern hospitality for yourself, you might not fully understand how big of an influence it has on Southern communities.

In Charleston, South Carolina, historic homes were built with an airy front porch that included a door separate from the one to the house. That porch door is a hospitality door, according to Glimpses of Charleston and It’s A Southern Thing.

Speaking of door-related trivia, you might’ve seen some old houses with two front doors—this is why.

What Are the Porch Doors For?

The hospitality doors were helpful social cues for neighbors and friends. If the porch door was propped open, it meant that the family inside was ready for visitors, and people were welcome to come in. If the door was shut—you guessed it—do not disturb. Though this old home feature has gone out of style, hospitality doors are still preserved in many houses in the South. Maybe one day they’ll even make a comeback.

See more features that only Southern homes have.

Classic Southern Recipes to Share
1 / 31

Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.