DE MESA SITE, REVISITED
James M. Smith
Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board
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"
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
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
v;~. *': .~.'::!' *: :" ::c.r 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
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.
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
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
4 0 24
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,,..- : .'" ,
Je 2;t-I --'17
4 0 2 A
liamli L -:
DE MESA 1785-1800
,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
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.
INTERPRETIVE FURNISHING.PROPOSAL FOR
THE DE MESA-SANCHEZ HOUSE
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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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 USE FOR DE MESA SANCHEZ HOUSE
Room 101 Parlour
Room 102 Entrance Hall
Room 103 Office
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 Nursery
Room 207 Work and General Purpose Room
Room 208 Boy's Bedroom
Room 209 Piazza or Gallery
Room 210 Bedroom (Invalids Room)
FIRST FLOOR PLAN
DE MESA HOUSE
SECOND FLOOR PLAN
DE MESA HOUSE
1978 "Further Excavations in the deMesa-Sanchez House 1977-1978,"
MS on file Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.
1978 "1977 Excavations of the deMesa-Sanchez House Interior,"
MS on file Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.
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.
Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of
Historic Artifacts. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
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.
"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.