DeMesa-Sanchez House - DeMesa Site, Revisited 1981 (38 pages)


Material Information

DeMesa-Sanchez House - DeMesa Site, Revisited 1981 (38 pages)
Series Title:
Herschel Shepard Project Files
Physical Description:
Shepard, Herschel ( donor )
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Folder: 7813 DeMesa-Sanchez House


Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- St. Johns -- St. Augustine

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID:

Full Text


James M. Smith

Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board


I. Introduction

For over a year's time, from the spring of 1977 to the spring of 1978, the

deMesa-Sanchez House became the focus of two archaeological projects, the first

undertaken by Kathy Deagan and the 1977 edition of the Florida State University

field school (1978), and the second under the aegis of the Historic St. Augustine

Preservation Board and John Bostwick (1978). The stated objectives for both

excavations centered on the following three considerations:

"1. The determination of the evolution of the deMesa-Sanchez
House architecture, including the sequence and dating of
floor plans and construction features.

2. The determination of lot element patterning through time.

3. The determination of the dietary and material patterning
associated with a lower-middle income criollo household"
(Deagan 1978:3).
Though an eye was cast toward each of these objectives during the fieldwork,

only the first was fully realized. In both Deagan's and Bostwick's reports, a

large portion of the data is bound up in the evolution of the deMesa-Sanchez

House, which simply means that much of the time during fieldwork was spent

chasing after foundations and floor levels and then determining their relative

chronological dates. To achieve this end, a variety of trenches were placed

within the interior of the present day structure and an intermixture of trenches

and test squares across the remainder of the deMesa lot (fig. 1).

Deagan established a set of different factors to date the various architec-

tural features. These include: 1) similar above sea level elevations, 2) similar

methods of construction, 3) definable relationships between floors and wall foot-

ings, and 4) terminus post quem provided by artifacts in the fill beneath the

j Excavated Areas

Fig. 1 deMeso Site
SA 7-6
10 0 5 10

floors (1978:11). The primary dating techniques used in the two reports are

essentially confined to the third and fourth criteria. Within the deMesa-Sanchez

House a series of tabby floors were laid down one above the other through time.

Between each of these earth fill was used to make a fairly level base and to

provide a continuous bed. Both organic and cultural material occurred in large

quantity in the fill levels, strongly suggesting that the various builders simply

took earth from somewhere on the deMesa lot, shoveled it onto the tabby floor

being replaced, and poured a new floor directly above it. The intervening fill

and its cultural material thus provide a basis to date the overlying floor by the

artifacts' terminus post quem, particularly the ceramics. This in turn allows

the individual floors to function as a dating tool by their relationship with the

various wall footings. If a floor was poured over a wall base, the floor must

postdate the wall; if a floor was laid directly abutting a wall, the two elements

were in use at the same time; and finally if a wall cut through a floor, the wall

must postdate the floor. (See fig. 2).

:......-.....''.. ............'.....

S' .. t.p.q. 1813 i Tobby floor
:? Wall base .c 00 -..
c.1800 -1 Fill
t.p.q. 1800
v;~. *': .~.'::!' *: :" ::c.r 1760; : *: .
t.p.q. 1760

(( ,^g 2

Beyond the two site reports, the excavations also spawned a small number of

student papers. These include analyses of a First Spanish Period well (Huston

1977), the glass material culture (Wirth 1977), 3 Gaule Indian burials (Gest

1977), the faunal remains (Reitz 1977), and the European-Chinese ceramics

(Letchworth 1977).

II. The Archaeology of the deMesa-Sanchez House

The Pre-1750 Period (fig. 3)

Very little cultural activity occurred on the site before Antonio

deMesa's arrival in the late 1740's. This "pre-deMesa era" is defined by a meager

group of three different features; a hard-packed clay floor, a short section of

oyster shell wall, and five individual burials. Both the clay floor and tabby

footing are poorly documented by the archaeological record; neither having any

associated material culture nor datable context. The information from the five

burials, all apparently Guale Indians, is a bit more enlightening. Gest (1977)

and Bostwick (1979) claim that the five individuals were all members of a single

extended or even nuclear family (based on common skeletal malformations) who died

on approximately the same dates from supposedly similar causes. Further, Gest

speculates that this "family" was conscripted to work on the Castillo by the

local Spanish government and in the process fell victim to one of the periodic

epidemics that swept through St. Augustine's Indian population during the late

17th century. This scenario rests on historical and not archaeological data.

But for its part, the archaeology has no better interpretation to offer.

Fig. 3
deMesa Pre-1750
SA 7-6
10 0 5 10

DeMesa House c. 1760

With Antonio de Mesa's ownership, the site gained its first clearly definable

buildings and features, arranged in a fairly standard late First Spanish Period

pattern. As shown in fig. 4, the excavations uncovered three integrated archi-

tectural elements;.a small single room house, a larger, partially enclosed

central courtyard, and a small, detached rear kitchen. Each of these components

was interconnected to provide an overall, single continuous architectural unit.

The house itself was a one room, 16.7 by 26.5 ft. coquina structure, built

at some time prior to 1760. The single room plan is predicated upon the absence

of any below ground interior division. Also, no flooring material (tabby or

packed earth) was found that dated to this period. A large, tabby floored court-

yard, 23.3 by 35.0 ft.,extended directly from the rear wall of the house eastward

to the edge of the kitchen. It was enclosed on three of its four sides with the

south and southwest exposures left open. At a distance of about 8 ft. from the

kitchen wall a circular stain cut through the courtyard floor. Although not

fully excavated (the wall dividing rooms 106 and 108 sits directly above it), the

stain has all the earmarks of a well pit. In addition to this feature, Bostwick

(1978:12) mentions locating a post hole in the courtyard somewhere along the back

wall of the house. Its exact placement has unfortunately been lost along the

way, but the presence of a post in this general area does suggest the possibility

of a rear loggia with a shed roof arrangement. The final element of the deMesa

plan concerns the detached rear kitchen. For reasons unknown, only one of its

coquina walls was fully traced, indicating a north-south dimension of slightly

less than 12 ft. with an associated interior tabby floor.

Beyond this evidence relating to the deMesa occupation, Deagan and Bostwick

also uncovered a substantial portion of a larger structure known as the Escovedo

House. The exposed portions of its tabby wall foundations and floor partially

define a two-room structure, measuring 33 ft. in length with its short axis or


gable end (of unknown width) fronting St. George Street, directly south of the

original deMesa property. Escovedo apparently was built and inhabited about the

same time as deMesa.

DE MESA c. 1760
Fig. 4 SA 7-6
4 0 2 4

jms 8-81

DeMesa House c. 1780 The British Period (fig. 5)

By 1780 the deMesa House had undergone a good bit of Anglicization. The

initial one room design was changed to a three room, tabby floored plan as the

house was expanded southward by nearly 12 ft. over the now demolished Escovedo

House. This expansion did not alter the integrity of the original structure, it

merely stuck another room onto the long axis, added a partition through the in-

terior, and provided a 6 ft. wide entry into the house directly from the street.

The only other modification to the central core occurred along the exterior side

of room 103's east wall, where a chimney base was built in the same location as

the present doorway.

The central courtyard from the 1760 plan also underwent some alteration,

though in a more subtle than substantial manner. During the British Period this

section changed from its original large, open "room" function to a non-

architectural space used in part for trash disposal. Broken barrel tiles, English

ceramics, and packed earth overlaid much of what was once deMesa's courtyard

floor. Although the exact limits of the debris' scatter were never clearly

defined, it apparently extended from the rear of the house to approximately the

kitchen's western edge through the area roughly corresponding to rooms 105 and

107. Not only does this material suggest an English disposal pattern at work, it

also clearly denotes the use of barrel tiles at the site as a roofing material on

one or more of the original buildings. With the appearance of Stout or Walton

the tiles were stripped off and discarded onto the courtyard floor. Whether or

not, as Deagan suggests (1978:22) they also define a specific work space, is, for

now, only conjectural. As a final note on the courtyard area, a new section of

tabby floor was poured along the rear edge of the southern addition in what is

today room 104. Its purpose or function is to date unresolved.

The kitchen stayed in about the same location as its 1760 predecessor. But

now, instead of being built entirely of coquina, only the north wall remained


stone while the original west and south walls were torn down and replaced by a

wood frame construction. As before, the east wall of the kitchen was not defined

during the excavations, though its tabby floor indicates at least a 7 ft. width.

DE MESA c. 1780
Fig. 5 SA 7-6
Fig. 5
4 0 24

jin';l I1

DeMesa-Sanchez House 1785-1800 (fig. 6)

With the return of St. Augustine to Spanish control, the site followed suit

under Juan Sanchez's ownership and returned to a more Hispanic treatment of its

architectural space. At sometime during this 15 year span, the house lost its

Anglo three room plan with the removal of an interior wall (room 103), thus

fashioning an asymetrical two room core minus its street entry a design that

incidentally incorporated the original deMesa structure in its entirety. The

house also gained a two room east wing, giving it an overall "L" shaped configu-

ration, along with a new tabby floor throughout both its interior and exterior

limits. As for deMesa's original courtyard, it was now enclosed along its

northern portion by the two room addition while its remaining open area was con-

verted into a fairly large covered loggia with coquina piers supporting a

probable shed roof.

To the rear of the house the kitchen continued to be detached, but its place-

ment was shifted eastward by 14 ft. from its previous location. After a brief

stint as a frame structure, Sanchez rebuilt the kitchen entirely of coquina in a

much larger 14.2 by 17.8 ft. format, using bare earth as the flooring surface.

Pottery fragments imbedded in the floor indicate that it remained earthen until

sometime after 1820 (late hand-painted pearlware providing the terminus post


By 1800, the deMesa-Sanchez House had taken on the basic outline that it

displays today. All the elements were in place, and it simply became a matter of

enclosing and connecting together the various parts into a single architectural


o.. .. ..

.. ... .. .. .. ..

:'. :' :. tabby floor) ". '

a;. ^; ^-. ***.^^^^*.^^^^
., .

",* ...

S,,..- : .'" ,

Fig. 6

(earthen floor)

j 2

Je 2;t-I --'17


4 0 2 A
liamli L -:

S~aSggg^^^g~gg^?3^^^51''^ 5S~S^^fif^T~e-a.4


DE MESA 1785-1800
SA 7-6

,Z '" 1 1 .4i


DeMesa-Sanchez House c. 1820 (fig. 7)

Of all the various building phases that the deMesa-Sanchez House has undergone,

the 1820 plan is the least well documented archaeologically. The loggia of the

previous Sanchez era was now enclosed with coquina blocks laid between the exist-

ing piers at sometime before 1815. Bostwick (1978:16) suggests that this process

occurred in two stages; the present room 104 became enclosed between 1803 and

1813, based on the absence of ironstone in the fill beneath the new tabby floor

(a rather unreliable dating technique), and then room 107 underwent a similar

alteration at some point after 1813, based this time on the presence of ironstone.

Though Bostwick's scheme may indeed be correct, it would seem more likely that

the entire loggia was modified into an interior space during a single building

phase, instead of two, around the 1813 date. Also an exterior chimney was added

to room 101 along the south wall by the early 1820's. And for the first time, the

kitchen remained unchanged from its previous plan.

DE MESA c.1820
Fig. 7 SA 7-6
4 0 24
mrmm-s -M

S Kitchen
S (earthen floor)"



DeMesa-Sanchez House c. 1835 (fig. 8)

The last step in the development of the site (at least for our purposes)

occurred prior to 1835 when the once detached kitchen was now joined to the main

body of the house. In the course of losing its dependency status, the kitchen

gained nearly 8 ft, in width, a large interior hearth and chimney, a loggia along

its southern face, and a probable wooden floor. The only other observable change

took place in the original core of the house where the solid coquina wall in the

area of room 101 (the south wall of deMesa's house) was removed and two wooden

frame partitions added, producing a neoclassical symmetry within this section of

the ground floor plan.

4 0 24
:mm m1 Ram

III. Some Final Thoughts

Le Corbusier once observed that man is architecture's content (in Glassie

1975:117). Although the archaeology of the deMesa-Sanchez House has dealt pri-

marily with its below ground evolution, it still offers us a glimpse, however

brief, of the people.who built and inhabited it between the 1750's and the 1830's.

All houses, from the most modest to the most palatial, hold in common two inter-

related aspects. They express to the world passing by a type of bond linking

their occupants to the larger community at hand through a sharing of similar

design and style. Architecture, whether it be First Spanish, British, or

Victorian clearly states the membership of its builders-occupants into a com-

munity that has dimensions of both time and space. And secondly, houses serve as

mediators or an intermediate step between the people living in them and the

surrounding natural environment. The choice of building materials, be they wood,

stone, brick, or concrete, and their arrangement into architectural shapes reflect,

in no small part, the way in which a group perceives and exploits its natural


The initial plan of the deMesa House with its one room design, open rear

courtyard, and detached kitchen delineated a communal living arrangement. Space

was viewed in terms of openness; the whole gamut of domestic activities sleeping,

eating, cooking, procreating, etc., all occurred in a common area. Within this

setting, personal privacy took a back seat to communal living. The Renaissance

of Europe and its cult of the individual had not yet bulled its way into

St. Augustine's isolated corner of the Spanish world. Space and its ordering into

a man-made environment was still being seen, at least by deMesa, through medieval


The effects of St. Augustine's shift into the British sphere was not lost on

the town's material culture, including its architecture. By 1780 the deMesa House

had undergone a radical transition in its spatial usage in a sense jumping out

of its medieval mold and catching up to the 18th century. The original one room

scheme was now expanded to three. The once open, communal design became subdivided

into a more specialized, segregated, and symmetrical form as the increased desire

for privacy began to find expression through the architecture under Walton's

and Stout's control the separation of us from them (Glassie 1975:122). Not only

did the overall function of the house change, but the courtyard also underwent

revision in its use. It no longer operated as an "open" unenclosed extension of

the house; instead it provided a convenient place for dumping the domestic trash

without any concern for its former architectural role. But this Anglicization

didn't last for long.

As the English and Spanish continued to play musical chairs with St. Augustine's

colonial status, the house by 1785 mirrored the return once again to Spanish hands.

The symmetrical three room plan with its street entry was discarded by the new

owner Sanchez in favor of a two room central core along with the addition of a

two room wing and tabby floored loggia. By the early part of the Second Spanish

Period the house plan came to represent something of a compromise (on a larger

scale) between the earlier Spanish and British styles. On the one hand it reflected

an acceptance of space being allocated into smaller, less communal units; but on

the other it did not organize these units into any symmetrical format.

In its final two building stages, spanning the 1820 to 1835 period, the house

continued to express a seemingly relentless movement toward closure, segregation,

and symmetry that had been first set in motion during the Walton-Stout era. The

once open loggia became incorporated as an interior room; the previously detached

kitchen was added onto the rear of the house; and a formalized three-room, central

hall plan was adopted for the original section of the ground floor. In a 75 year

stretch, the initial three elements of the deMesa site, its one room house, rear

courtyard, and detached kitchen, had evolved into a single, unified architectural

form. Viewed against time, the house defined a growing desire for individual


and private space. The sense of community shown by the 1760 plan was by 1835

completely rejected in favor of a more personal and specialized architecture.


The restoration and the interior re-creation of the De Mesa-Sanchez

House will be the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board's first effort

at interpreting the domestic life of Florida's American Territorial Period.

Although the fabric and history of the building envelope much earlier periods,

the surviving structure is more representational of the 1830's and 1840's.

Since the evolution of the house is a textbook example of how an early

buildings' physical growth parallels the history of our nation's oldest city,

the Board of Trustees have mandated that much as possible of the existing

fabric of the house should be preserved, rather than to strip it back to a

conjectural version of an earlier period.

Research, both archaeological and documentary, explain the rich history

of this site. In the late 1st Spanish period, 1760's, Antonio De Mesa, a

minor treasury official, owned and lived in a simple 2 room "common plan

house" on this site. During the British occupation, 1763-1784, a series of

British owners, particularly an indigo planter and merchant, Joseph Stout

of Philadelphia, made substantial additions and alterations to the Spaniards

humble shelter. Later, Juan Sanchez, the master caulker to the royal works,

acquired the property during the 2nd Spanish period, 1784-1821, and modified

the house even more. Although Sanchez was a Spaniard, his architectural

preference apparently was more in sympathy with the Anglo traditions of his

British predecessor.

The last significant chapter in the architectural evolution of the De

Mesa-Sanchez House occurred during the American Territorial period, 1821-1845.

- 2 -

During this time the total value of the property almost'doubled. Cartographic

records indicate an expansion of the east wing to incorporate the once separate

coquina kitchen to the main body of the house. Reasonably we can assume that

major renovations took place at this time. Title research indicates that

the house was purchased by James C. Lisk from New Baltimore, New York in

1835. Preliminary investigation has found that Mr. Lisk was a Quaker and

he was probably suffering from tuberculosis. The size of his house and the

amount of money he expended are significant indications of his economic

status. It is doubtful, however, that Mr. Lisk ever occupied his house

since he died in 1836. Individuals like Lisk, however, were typical of the

new Floridians moving to St. Augustine in the 1830's. The lure of a warmer

climate and the prospect of new business opportunities made territorial St.

Augustine attractive to many.

A rapid succession of owners and tenants will occupy this house through-

out the duration of the territorial period. Among them was Charles Loring,

son of a local innkeeper and brother of American war hero, William Wing Loring.

Unfortunately no wills or inventories have yet been discovered which relate

directly to any single occupant of this house. Other reliable resource

materials do exist however, which will help to establish a basis in recreating

an historic interior of this early American Territorial period. Wills,

inventories, newspaper accounts and contemporary descriptions, both literary

and factual can be used to substantiate the interior decor. In accordance

with accepted professional practice, interpretation of the De Mesa-Sanchez

house will not be based on any single individual, but will be a re-creation

of life in St. Augustine based on the styles and tastes prevailing in the

American Territorial period. In general terms, interpretation will reflect

- 3 -

the domestic life an an Anglo-American family which has been transplanted

to St. Augustine for reasons of health or economics. Since their new home

is larger than the typical domestic structure at the time we will assume

that part of their building was devoted to some commercial venture and that

one or more of the rooms was probably occupied by an extension of their

family or boarders. Newspaper accounts show situations such as these were

common to St. Augustine in the early 19th century. Although it was, by some

standards, a backward town, people with the means and the inclination to own

fine furnishings were living in St. Augustine in the 1830's. Few communities

of its size could boast the presence of a Napoleonic prince, a prominent New

England essayist and several well to do northern.physicians. The surviving

decorative mouldings, doors and mantles in the house give testimony of a

pre-occupation with the neo-classical and "Grecian" architectural modes and

we assume that the furnishings would have complimented the style. However,

because of the tremendous expense involved, the difficulty of procurement,

and the high degree of sophistication implied, it would be unrealistic to

think that anyone in Frontier St. Augustine would have been willing or able

to furnish completely a house in pure Grecian decor. A blend of late 18th

and early 19th century pieces with an emphasis on the 1820's and 30's would

be a more accurate description of the De Mesa house furnishings at this time.

The overall tone of the interior will reflect the combination of very fine

as well as vernacular furniture. The variety and quantity of household

possessions will also mark a complete departure from the austerity of the

Spanish and English periods.

Changing seasons or a temporary activity often dictated furniture

placement. Furniture was usually structured to serve function rather

- 4 -

than please the eye. Therefore configuration of the individual pieces will

seem clumsy and awkward by 20th Century standards.

The visitor will enter the house through the six panel street door into

a small central hallway. This practice is a complete departure from the Hispanic

houses which rarely had street doors and never had halls. This space will be

relatively bare with the exception of either a small bench called a "settle"

or a console table a large shelf like piece which is usually fitted with a

mirror at waist level. On the walls a long peg rack hung with an assortment

of hats, parasols, or shawls would be typical. If the console table is used

a large gilt frame mirror should hang over it. A hall lamp, an inverted glass

bell-like affair, suspended by small brass chains and fueled by either a candle

or an oil lamp will provide the appropriate lighting. Since this will be a ''

high traffic area, floors might be left as bare scrubbed boards. The walls,

ceilings and woodwork should be painted in accord with the results of the

paint analysis and the doors might be wood-grained a dark walnut shade, a

common practice of the time both in St. Augustine and elsewhere.

To the south of the front hall is the entrance to the Downstairs Parlor,

where the emphasis is on comfort and utility. Across the north wall a large

lumbering federal style sofa will be placed. Its uncomfortable hair cloth

upholstery will be covered with a baggy slipcover of striped cotton or calico.

An equally appropriate substitute for a sofa would be a "banquette", which

is a type of home-made couch which fits against the wall. The center of the

room will be dominated by a small vernacular drop-leaf table covered with a

fringed cloth. On it will be a few books, an Astral lamp, and perhaps a-few

sewing things. A pair of painted Windsor chairs will flank the fireplace while

a rocking chair and some painted "fancy" chairs will be sprinkled about the

- 5 -

room. A guitar, chess or card tables and other amusements of the day would

add greatly to the "family room" atmosphere. The walls will be decorated with

groups of prints depicting national heroes (i.e. George Washington or Andrew

Jackson) or sporting prints such as cockfights or hunting scenes. A set

of deer antlers over the mantle would also be typical. The window should be

curtainless except for a panel of mosquito netting. Floor covering will be

strips of grass matting laid wall to wall. Lighting, in addition to the

previously mentioned Astral lamp, will be provided by candles in brass candle-

sticks or pressed glass oil lamps. Candlesticks are often covered by glass

"hurricane shades" which prevent drafts from affecting the efficiency of the


In addition to the basic furniture, floor covering and lighting, the

room should be provided with many objects of a transitory nature which reflect

and personify the everyday lives of the occupants. The mantle shelf might hold

a small vase filled with fresh flowers, waxed flowers or peacock feathers.

Palmetto fans which are mentioned in newspaper advertisements might be sprinkled

about the room to remind the visitor of the discomforts of pre-climate control

living. Partially finished needlework or some other handcraft would address

one part of a woman's role in the 19th Century home life.

The Back Stair Hall, probably once an open area during Spanish times, is

now a passageway to the upper floors or the dining room. Here might be placed

a plain table with a large assortment of candleholders. Often an area such as

this was set aside to clean brass candlesticks and lamps during the day. They

were eventually carried back to their individual rooms in the evening. We shall

use this space to lead the visitor to the office or library.

- 6-

This room should contain the plainest furnishings'possible with the

exception of a large desk placed at an angle to the window -o-t-ak'e advantage

of the available light. In this area the master of the house would conduct

his business affairs. It should convey a rough and ready ambience with a

minimal of refinements, one of those being perhaps a decanter of liquor for

the pleasure of his associates. The previously mentioned desk should be a

large clumsy affair with its many drawers and compartments filled with sheets

of writing paper, quill pens, bottles of ink, and assorted books and ledgers.

Portions of the walls will be fitted with primitive board bookshelves. These

would be filled with leather and cloth bound volumes interspersed with stacks

of old periodicals and newspapers. Several territorial period inventories

list the contents of personal libraries and would be a valuable source in

re-creating one in this house. Two or three roller maps of the Florida

territory or the United States should fill the other walls. Seating should

be limited to two or three painted Windsor chairs and even a stool made from

a broken chair. Straw matting should cover the floors while the walls and

trim will be painted in accordance with the paint survey.

The east door from the office leadsto the Museum Room. This area will

be a blatant departure from the furnished rooms of the museum house. Here

exhibit panels and artifact cases will be used to explain the architectural

and historical development of the site. Modern graphics, lighting and

display techniques will be used in this room.

Through the south door of the museum room is the Dining Room. This

large sunny room probably has functioned for the purpose of dining since

Spanish days. Rational for this being its close proximity to the kitchen.

The long hall-like properties of this area will be broken by large mahogany

- 7-

pedestal type dining table. It should be covered with a long white cloth and

set with an array of silver and ceramics known to have existed in St. Augustine

at this time. Findings of the archeological report will be helpful in securing

precise information but most likely transfer printed and painted pearlwares

as well as simple federal style coin silverware would be the choice. Dining

chairs around the table should be the painted and stenciled "fancy" sort which

usually come in sets of six or eight. Extra seating could be provided by

similar but not necessarily matching chairs lined along the walls. A large

mahogany sideboard would be necessary for storage of china, silver and table

linens. A simple wooden case filled with straw and wine bottles might be found

beneath or beside the sideboard or in an out of the way corner. Over the side-

board a large gilted mirror would be customary. This mirror will be draped with

cheesecloth in the summer to protect it from fly specks. The remainder of the

wall decoration will consist of a few cheap prints. A tub for washing dishes

is a common item in the dining room since kitchen help would not be trusted to

the care of finer things. Along with the straw matting a painted floor cloth

or "oil cloth" would be appropriate here. It should be large enough to accommo-

date seating area of the table and chairs. These cloths which were practical

as well as decorative were often painted in a black and white diamond pattern

and were bordered with a stenciled design. Since the light is adequate in this

room, potted vines growing in the windows would be a typical practice. These

vines can be trained to grow over the entire surface of the window. Lighting

needs could be satisfied with the use of candles and oil lamps and it would

not be unlikely that the parlor Astral lamp might be brought in and placed on

the sideboard, if needed.

Through the east door one enters the Kitchen. Once a separate building

this room has served the same function since Spanish times. Empahsis here,

- 8-

like the "office", will be one of pure function. A large vernacular table

will be placed in the center of the room near the window. Its legs will be

set in pans of lamp oil to discourage insects. If bowls of food are simulated,

they will be covered with a veil of cheesecloth. Seating will consist of a

few painted chairs and a stool made from a backless chair. On the east wall

in the reveal of the fireplace simple wooden shelves will be built. They

will be draped with cheesecloth and filled with crocks and food stuffs. The

mantle shelf might hold a broken cup filled with flowers and one or two

"Japaned" tin candleholders. The fireplace itself should have an iron crane

with a large assortment of pot hooks and two or three cast iron cooking pots.

Hanging from the shelf might be a grill or a frying pan. A lockable press or

pie safe will garnish the east wall. It will contain costly provisions such ,

as coffee, tea or sugar. From the whitewashed ceiling joists will hang an

assortment of dried herbs and smoked meat afnd a peg rack will be needed to

hold aprons and cooking rags. The floor will be bare in this room and the

window curtainless except for the usual panel of mosquito netting.

The Storeroom to the east of the kitchen will serve two functions. Besides

holding barrels of flour, tins of other staples, bedding, etc., it will also

serve as the servants bedroom. In the winter the servants cot might move out

to the warmth of the kitchen. A small cot, a broken chair and a peg rack

hung with plain clothing will figure into the furnishing of this room.


catch-all space would be a logical place to store the family bathtub.

Weather permitting, the visitor should exit from the kitchen into the
"swept yard" of the patio. Here will be explained the plantings and the

outbuildings which would be found in this area.

At this point the visitor ascends the back stairs to the gallery or

- 9 -

piazza, which will be furnished with a few chairs and a'simple pine table.

On the table will be a mirror, bowl and razor to allow for shaving in warm

weather. The first door on the piazza will open to the "bed-sitting" room

furnished to characterize the occupancy of an invalid. Assumptions about the

occupant of this room will be interpreted by the placement of personal artifacts.

Medicinal items such as patent medicine and other potions will be evident on

the dresser or mantle shelf. Other i-tems will certainly include newspapers,

palmetto fans, a walking cane or crutch, a spitoon, a chamber pot, a bowl and

pitcher, towels, etc. In warm weather the mosquito net draped bed will be

placed in the center of the room. Several straight chairs and a rocker will

comprise the seating. Trunks or hat boxes will be tucked under the bed while

a wardrobe, dresser, and a wash stand will be lined along the walls. A simple ,

press with a glazed door will be built into the reveal of the fireplace, as

is evidenced by the paint line and nailholes in the woodwork. The floors should

be covered with matting and walls painted according to the paint survey. Along

with the mosquito netting the windows might be equipped with linen window shades.

Modern spring rolled shades can be easily adapted to resemble their 19th century

counterparts. On the walls a few prints, of perhaps a religious nature, framed

with simple black moulding will be the only decoration.

Beyond this room is a wide hallway-like area. This serves as the passage-

way to the back bedrooms and gallery. This space will depict a general purpose

room which might include handwork, storage and even sleeping. Furnishings

will be minimal and functional arranged in a make shift manner about the room.

In the center, close to the window, might be a large quilting frame supported

by four chairs with additional chairs placed around it, dining room style. The
frame will hold a semi-finished quilt copied from a documented pattern m the
frame will hold a semi-finished quilt copied from a documented pattern frem the

- 10 -

1830's. A large wardrobe and a small day bed or "Mexidan cot" will complete

the setting.

To the north of this area is a smaller room. To develop characterization

here the furnishings will suggest a young man's or boys room. Along with the

usual bed, wash stand, wardrobe, etc., smaller objects will personify the

occupants identity. A diminutive felt covered table at the window will be

used as a desk, littered with school books, quill pens, chalkboard, and perhaps

a small chalkware bust of George Washington or perhaps some other revolutionary

war hero. On the walls a few sporting prints either in simple black frames or

nailed directly to the walls would be suitable. A small shelf will be hung

over the door or fitted into a corner. It will contain the simple treasures

of childhood such as a small animal skull, fossils or shells, a wooden top or .

other amusements. The floors will be covered with matting while the windows

will be curtainless except for the mosquito netting.

Entry into the upstairs parlor is gained by passing through the second

floor stair hall. It is interesting to speculate why second floor parlors

were common in St. Augustine during the 19th century. Perhaps the higher

elevation provided more comfort in the hot summer months or since buildings

were so close to the street the upper floor would certainly offer an escape

from the noise, dust and prying eyes of the 19th century St. George Street.

The Parlor will be the most "furnished" room in the house. Its woodwork,

principally the door and window surrounds, document a pre-occupation with

classical modes. The builder has evidently adapted the teachings of 19th

century architect, Asher Benjamin, in a crude vernacular manner. The mantle,

however, is a more developed piece which was quite possibly imported. Like

the woodwork the furnishing and decor should reflect the same makeshift

- 11 -

attempt at elegance. The configuration of furniture will be arranged with the

major pieces lying flat against the perimeter of the room. A notable exception

to this is the center table and the chairs pulled up around it. Throughout the

19th century the center table was the nucleus of family life and the artifacts

placed on it reflect this tradition. Around another Astral lamp will be

placed a Bible and other books, some unfinished fancy work in a small basket

and perhaps some natural items such as shells or fossils. The chairs accom-

panying this table will be simple machine made types pulled up in a conversational

manner. The sofa will be a large hair cloth upholstered Grecian model. It will

be set against either the northeast or southeast walls. In the summer this

piece, as well as all the upholstered pieces throughout the house will be covered

with baggy slipcovers of either white linen or striped cotton. The presencepf

a small square piano set at an angle to a window will help interpret-home

entertainments in frontier Florida. Flanking the fireplace will be a pair of

card tables of the popular mahogany lyre base or pedestal type. An easy chair,

a rocker, and assorted fancy chairs scattered around the room will provide the

balance of the seating. In addition to the chairs and sofa one or two tabourets,

a type of upholstered footstool, would be used here. To emphasize the attempt

at fashion and refinement in this most elegant room of the house, a rug of

ingrain or Wilton carpeting will be used instead of the usual matting. Window

coverings will also be a departure from the other rooms. Here again will be

an attempt at style utilizing ingenuity and available materials. These drapes

will be of a semi-sheer cotton material trimmed with brightly colored silk

fringe and tied back to one side. They will hang by rings on wooden rods which

will be painted goldto emulate more expensive brass ones. On the walls will be

- 12 -

.groups of prints dealing with natural history, literary themes or national

heroes. Needlework pictures and oil paints were also popular. Over the mantle

a gilt mirror will be appropriate. In the summer this piece, like others in

the house, will be covered with chessecloth. In addition to the basic fur-

nishings, other objects of a seasonal or transitory nature will be scattered

about the room such as palmetto fans and fly brushes in the summer and shawls

or laprobes in the winter. In the windows where the light is adequate, potted

plants will be placed, to emphasize the ubiquitous 19th century pre-occupation

with natural history and gorwing plants.

Through the north door is the Master Bedroom, a room which maintains some

of the parlor's refinements in the quality of furniture and accessories. The

bed will be the "french" type which are mentioned in inventories. It, like ,,

the other dresser and a washstand, all of good quality, will complete the

inventory of this room. A few floral prints or a mourning picture will adorn

the walls while the floors will be covered with the usual matting.

Access to the Nursery is gained through the east door of the master

bedroom. This room will be the feminine counterpart to the young man's room

and is furnished with a youth bed, a cradle or crib, a rocker, and a washstand.

Scattered about the matted floors will be children's furniture, clothing, toys

and other 19th century trappings of childhood. Here a vivid calico will be

used for curtains which will be nailed to the top of the window frame and

tied back. A few inexpensive prints, somewhat sacchrin in nature, will be

tacked to the walls without frames and will be the only decorative accessories.

At this point, the visitor will be led downstairs to exit through the front

door to complete their tour.


In summary, the artifacts chosen to furnish the De Mesa-Sanchez House

will reflect material culture of an Anglo-American family living in St. Augustine

during the early 19th century. In the absence of a grand personage or specific

inventory of pieces known to have been used in the house, interpretation will

focus on the general characteristics of life in frontier St. Augustine in

the Territorial period. The collection, therefore, will emphasize domestic

life styles and will display a blend of fine and vernacular furniture of the




Room 101 Parlour

Room 102 Entrance Hall

Room 103 Office

Room 104
Room 105 Stair Hall

Room 106 Museum Room

Room 107 Dining Room

Room 108 Store Room

Room 109 Open Porch

Room 110 Kitchen


Room 201 Parlour

Room 202 Master Bedroom

Room 203 -

Room 204 Stair Hall

Room 205
Room 205 Nursery
Room 206

Room 207 Work and General Purpose Room

Room 208 Boy's Bedroom

Room 209 Piazza or Gallery

Room 210 Bedroom (Invalids Room)

1 k











205 -,'


I I-






Bostwick, J.
1978 "Further Excavations in the deMesa-Sanchez House 1977-1978,"
MS on file Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.

Deagan, K.
1978 "1977 Excavations of the deMesa-Sanchez House Interior,"
MS on file Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.

Gest, T.R.
1977 ."Archaeology and Physical Anthropology of Three Burials at
the deMesa Site SA 7-6, St. Augustine, Florida," MS on file
Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.

Glassie, H.

Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of
Historic Artifacts. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Letchworth, W.
1977 "British, French, and Chinese Ceramics at SA-16-23, SA-7-6, and
SA-26-1," MS on file Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.

Reitz, E.

Wirth, P.

"Faunal Remains From the deMesa Site in St. Augustine," MS on
file Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.

"Glass at the deMesa Site, SA 7-6," MS on file Historic St.
Augustine Preservation Board.