Edgartown, MA, sits on the eastern coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Its clustered houses all look toward the water and in the center of town you can catch the Chappy Ferry—a “three-car, three-minute” ferry to Chappaquiddick Island. Where Oak Bluff’s is Queen Anne style and colorful (more on that in this post), Edgartown is whitewashed and Classical Revival in style. After a visit to to Chappaquiddick I couldn’t help but spend some time walking the streets of Edgartown. Something caught me by surprise: a number of Edgartown’s stately houses featured blue porch ceilings.
I’d read about blue porch ceilings, which are commonly found in the South and have a history rooted in wealth, ghosts, or bugs, depending on who you ask. But I’d never seen them before and did not expect to on Martha’s Vineyard!
Why blue? Blue paint not only mimics the sky but was more expensive, so may have been a sign of wealth. In some regions of the South, this porch roof blue is known as “haint blue,” haint being the word of “spirit” or “ghost” in a dialect of Creole used by African slaves in coastal Georgia and South Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries. The haint blue was meant to ward of evil spirits. Others explain that its real intent was to ward off bugs–which it may have done as paints in that period were made with lime.
Are you familiar with blue porch ceilings? Where have you seen them?
Sources and Further Reading
Part history, part interior decorating guide: this is a great article on blue ceilings from Architectural Digest.
Sherwin-Williams not only has little history write-up on blue ceilings, they have some paint colors made specifically for this. Check them out.
This article from Today has a sampling of the favorite porch ceiling blues from Benjamin Moore (I’m a fan of Clear Skies and Arctic Blue).
2 thoughts on “Edgartown, MA, and the Blue Porch Ceiling”
I have never heard of any association between blue porch ceilings and “haints,” but my family is not generally concerned with hauntings and other such nonsense. However, what I have always heard from family members and others is that porch ceilings are painted blue to prevent birds from roosting and, subsequently, defecating. Birds can see color, so a sky blue ceiling will ward them off. Otherwise, swallows and other birds will find little nooks to nest in and create an unsanitary mess.
This is a great additional reason for the blue ceilings that I hadn’t heard before! I love it. I wonder if it actually helped much? Thanks for sharing!