Front Royal is a town of about 12,000 people lying at the foot of the Shenandoah mountains in Virginia. Its downtown is full of small 100-year-old houses that are worth a detour.
The houses and their front gardens are strung along sidewalks shaded by maple trees. Outside of town, subdivisions without sidewalks are hacked out of the Virginia meadowland. But in the central residential area, horseshoes clink and people talk on porches.
On a recent Saturday afternoon in May a bake sale was going on at the Love and Faithfulness Church. And while customers crowded the Nail Shop, spring was arriving in the front gardens of Front Royal. Bearded blue irises and red poppies bristled in the sunshine, lilacs waited in the wings, and porch baskets were hung anticipating summer.
At this house the owners planted a plum tree and a Japanese maple in the front garden to match the color of their porch. Their house is made of Shenandoah stone, honey colored stucco, and a type of metal roof made in Virginia since 1800. No one is at home this afternoon, but the porch swing beckons.