What are House Thoroughfares?

Thoroughfares were the routes or entrances used to access a house or various rooms inside a house. Thoroughfares also sometimes functioned as secondary rooms, but their main purpose was to accommodate traffic flow inside the house and allow entrance and egress to the house. Areas considered thoroughfares were Ante-rooms, Entrance Halls, Garden Entrances, Lobbies, Luggage Rooms, other Secondary Entrances — Corridors, Galleries, Passages, Nursery Entrances, and Secondary Garden Entrances — Porches, Saloons, Staircases, and Vestibules.

House Thoroghfares Consisted of Rooms such as this Gallery of the 1890s

Gallery of the 1890s. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

  • Ante-room: An Ante-room was a useful room that often served as a waiting rooms or provided entrance into another larger room. They usually had fireplaces, and because they sometimes served as waiting rooms, they were often thought of as more than just a thoroughfare. Ante-rooms in combination apartments also served to create a more efficient barrier to another room, rather than just the thickness of door.
  • Entrance Hall: Entrance-halls were considered apartments within a house. There were numerous types of Entrance-halls with the least ambitious being a wide passage that went from the entrance to a staircase and functioned as a corridor to the main rooms of a house. If the Entrance-hall was spacious, visitors found that a fireplace was often included to help reduce winter chills. Adjoining an Entrance-hall was often a small Porter’s-room that could double as Servant’s Waiting-room or be used instead of a Luggage Entrance. Entrance-hall furnishings included such things as tables (sometimes a stately center table), chairs, benches, and stands for cloaks, umbrellas, and hats. There was also usually some sort of statuary, portraits, or hunting trophies.
  • Garden Entrance: Garden-Entrances provided access to the garden from the house. Garden-Entrances could either be supplied with or without a Porch, but it was not to be situated in such a way that it made a room a thoroughfare. A Garden Entrance was also not to be combined in any way with a servant passageway because Garden Entrances were strictly used by the master, his family, and guests.
  • Lobby: A Lobby was considered an inferior Vestibule.
  • Luggage Entrance: Luggage-Entrances were seen in large houses, mansions, etc. and considered an auxiliary entrance to the main entrance. The idea of a Luggage-Entrance was to provide a convenient point for loading and unloading luggage. Luggage areas also opened into servant areas and not into rooms associated with the family. In superior homes a luggage-lift might also be used. Luggage-Entrances could also serve as entrances for a Gentleman’s Room or Business-Room.
  • Other Secondary Entrances: Nursery Entrances and Secondary Garden Entrances fit in this category. Secondary entrances also included Passages, Corridors, or Galleries. Passages allowed access to rooms whereas Corridors were usually used to access bedrooms. Corridors were also more stately. They were also larger and longer than passageways usually being between 6 to 12 feet wide, with their length double their width. Galleries were even wide and more stately than Corridors. They were usually 14 to 20 feet wide and their length, similar to Corridors, usually twice as long as the width. Galleries were also different from Corridors in their utilitarian character. Corridors were for passage only whereas Galleries not only functioned as thoroughfares but also accommodated displays or functioned like a Saloon. Galleries could also be specifically built to function as a Picture Gallery or a Ball-room. During the summer, a Gallery might also be used as a lounge area.
  • Porch: Porches were originally designed to prevent external cold air from entering a house when the door was opened. They were also created to counteract winds, protect people, and shelter carriages. There were two type of porches, open and enclosed. Open porches could be small with nothing more than a roof. Enclosed porches were usually larger and might contain walls and benches for waiting servants. If the area was more than that, it was considered an Entrance-Hall. Another type of Porch was the Carriage-Porch. It was designed so carriages could easily pass under a portico or something similar. Carriage-Porches were convenient during bad weather but inconvenient for people on foot because they made it more difficult to access the house. Moreover, people generally thought of Carriage-Porches as somewhat gloomy unless they were lit.
    thoroughfares - timber porch

    Domestic timber porch detail. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

  • Saloon: Although the Duchess of Devonshire might call it a saloon, Madame Récamier in France referred to as a salon. The term saloon was applied to almost any central hall that functioned similar to a thoroughfare. Saloons usually faced gardens or terraces and were often flanked by Drawing-rooms on one side and either a Music-room, Ballroom, Library, Morning-room, or Dining-room on the other. In smaller homes, saloons were replaced with Ante-rooms or even Vestibules if the Vestibule had a Garden Entrance. Saloons could also serve as Sitting-rooms.
  • Staircases: Staircases served as thoroughfares and usually provided access to sleeping quarters located on the second floor. A house’s principal staircase was usually closed to servants: Servants had their own staircase called the “Back-stairs,” although the back stairs also provided for incidental traffic. Back-stairs generally ran from the basement to the uppermost story. Sometimes there might also be a Private Family Staircase used by a family to access their own private rooms. Sometimes there were also Bachelors’ Stairs or Young Ladies’ Stairs that allowed bachelor or young ladies to reach their room from the outside during disagreeable weather.
  • Vestibules: A vestibule was for entrance only and served as a Lobby, Entrance Hall, or passageway between the entrance and a building’s main interior. Additionally, Vestibules were not quite equivalent to an Ante-room because a Vestibule functioned strictly as a thoroughfare where an Ante-room was more than thoroughfare. Vestibules also functioned as sort of diminutive hall with access to several doors, rather than a single door.


  • Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865.

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