Thursday, June 10, 2010


Steps 29, 2010

Who’d have thought that steps could be so interesting?

Last winter I noticed some rot in the wooden steps leading from our back porch down to the garden. It didn’t require immediate replacement. Some careful patching, filling and painting will buy a few more years. But it did get me to thinking about what kind of steps I’d like to have there when it comes time to replace these.

Since then, I’m been like a new father who starts noticing other fathers holding new babies wherever he goes. Only in my case it’s steps that I notice. Last weekend, for example, my friend Walt was watching the kids do chalk drawings on the sidewalk in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood. I was looking at the steps leading up to homes, stores, even the giant granite steps leading up to an old school.

We spent Memorial Day visiting relatives down in Edenton, North Carolina. Edenton’s a wonderful little down full of authentic Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century residences spared, so the story goes, when the citizens of Edenton made a deal with General Sherman that prevented their town from being burned down as Sherman cut his swath through the South during the Civil War.

Edenton’s old houses are full of interesting steps. My wife noticed them right away the first time we visited Edenton ten or twelve years ago. It’s not the treads that draw your attention. They tend to be left unfinished or else painted gray.

Rather, it’s the risers that draw your eye. I don’t know if the different designs date to the original building of the homes or whether they’re a more recent idea. I think they’re probably more a Mid-South thing since I don’t recall seeing steps in this style in the period homes of Virginia. Whatever the case, you can see that they come in all kinds of different shapes. We’re particularly partial to #29, above.

Steps 15, 2010

Now that I’m in the step mode, I started noticing them everywhere, mentally cataloging the different designs and wondering who’s walked up and down them through the years.

Steps 16, 2010

Steps 33, 2010

Steps 21, 2010

Steps 27, 2010


  1. I like those of #33, but they will be more problematic to repair if some rot is noticed... :)

  2. Damn you, Sherman.

    For me, it's roofs. For a friend of mine, it's drop ceilings. For Dan, it's sheds.

    We all have our thing...

  3. OMG, I'm loving those steps! Who knew! You'll have to let us know what you pick if you change 'em one day. Those are awesome!