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Spanish Colonial Architecture
A History Alive!
Social Studies Skill Builder style exercise
Prepared by C. Kelly
Intended Grade: Standard World History, 10th grade
Subject Areas: Social Studies and World History
Correlation to National or Florida Sunshine State Standard:
SS.A.3.4.... Student understands the significant economic, political, and
cultural interactions among peoples of Africa, Europe, Asia,
and the Americas during the Age of Discovery and European
Read expository text for information
Work cooperatively in a group
Create a product
Students will practice reading comprehension skills in a cooperative
learning environment to read, synthesize, and apply critical thinking skills
to the factors that influenced the design and construction of Spanish
colonial architecture in St. Augustine.
Approximate Time Required: 1 1/hours
1. Three Little Pigs storybook
2. Class set of note taking sheets OR overhead sample for students to
3. Sufficient number of group handout folders of each excerpt
(recommend 2 folders of each handout)
4. Teacher stamp/stickers to mark progress on activity
Students should be assigned in groups of 2-4 people of varying skill
levels and multi-intelligence strengths. You may choose to have the
groups sit at desks or move around the classroom visiting various
activity stations. You may also want to arrange desks so that each
student can see the projection screen.
Lesson preview activity:
Tell the story of or read the story of the Three Little Pigs. Then ask:
What building materials did each pig use?
How did they acquire those building materials?
What environmental danger did the pigs need protection from?
What environmental danger does your house protect you from?
Prior lesson on world history themes: Geography, Politics/government,
Economics, Society, Culture, Science/Technology (sample graphic
organizer enclosure one)
Ask Essential Question:
What factors influenced the way Spanish colonial settlers in St
Augustine designed and built their houses?
Distribute/show note taking sheet and review directions:
Practice good teamwork skills.
Everyone reads the handouts.
Together, the group discusses the main ideas in the handout.
Everyone records his or her original synopsis
Together, the group discusses the critical thinking questions
Everyone records his or her original answers to the questions
ONE person brings all the worksheets to the teacher to be checked.
If the work is satisfactory, teacher stamps each worksheet and gives
the runner the next folder.
Create a real estate ad for a Spanish Colonial house. Describe its'
actual location in the town, type of construction materials, and design.
Include a sketch of the floor plan. You must use these features:
coquina, tabby, gate, shutters, door, garden, kitchen, floor, and hearth.
Online information and illustrations:
World History Themes
Factors Affecting Spanish Colonial Architecture
Read the thematic handouts, then discuss the main ideas. Each student will write an
original synthesis for each handout.
Then, discuss the critical thinking questions presented in each handout. Each
student will write original answers to the questions.
When complete, submit this worksheet to the teacher.
Geography-Climate's Effect on Architecture
When Pedro Menendez landed in St Augustine with a charter to establish a
new city, he found the climate to be subtropical and humid. Summer sun was
intense. The heat and humidity and insect activity rapidly destroyed wooden
structures. The territory averaged 51 inches of rain per year, but also
suffered periodic droughts. Sometimes violent seasonal thunderstorms
pounded the city, lightning activity threatened wildfires. This coastal region
was also prone to hurricane activity between June and November. The city's
location on the bay front less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean often
provided a cooling breeze.
During the long summers temperatures routinely reached in the upper 90s
well into the evening hours. The short winters subjected residents to damp
and chill. Temperatures could reach freezing several times in the course of
the winter, especially when winds were out of the North.
How could you use design a building to protect your family from the
extremes of climate?
The location of St. Augustine on the Florida peninsula naturally imposed
some limitations as to the natural materials available for constructing housing.
The settlers discovered large piles of discarded oyster shells outside Indian
villages, as well as thriving oyster beds along the shore.
The countryside offered palm, cedar, cypress, and pine trees, with cedar
trees growing near fresh water not far away. Pine was most abundant, but
rotted quickly. Both cypress and cedar are rot-resistant. Scrub palmetto,
grasses, and vines were also abundant.
Florida's sandy soil, while not fertile, offered building possibilities. So did clay
deposits in the salt marshes.
Few if any stones are found in Florida, but in 1586 the settlers did discover a
deposit of coquina, a sediment stone formed by the compaction of tiny shells
into a coarse but resilient stone. It was not until 1690 that coquina was
quarried for use in building the Castillo. The Governor allowed the sale of
coquina remnants when the town was being rebuilt after the sack in 1702.
How could you use these elementary building materials to quickly erect
housing to protect your family from danger and the elements?
Politics and Government influence on Architecture
Menendez's charter from King Phillip II included the Ordinances of the Indies,
which specified the layout for Spanish Colonial settlement cities. Besides the
rules for laying out a central plaza and the location of roads, the Ordinances
also included the following:
"133. They shall arrange the building lots and edifices placed thereon
in such a manner that the rooms of the latter may enjoy the air of
the South and North as these are the best. The building of the
houses of the whole town generally shall be of so arranged that
they shall serve as a defense against those who may try to disturb
or invade the town. Each house in particular shall be so built
that they may keep therein their horses and work animals, and
shall have yards and corrals as large as possible for health and
134. They shall try also far as possible to have the buildings all on
one form for the sake of the beauty of the town."
To develop his towns into full-fledged municipalities, he set up councils, or
cabildos, with the power to collect taxes and distribute lots (Waterbury, 1983
- See map).
How did the government rules effect the individual home builder?
Society's Influence on Architecture
The soldiers and other settlers who accompanied Menendez expected to
recreate their life in Spain, including their diet, class structure, dress, and
The Spanish placed the front walls of buildings directly on the front lot line,
effectively creating a continuous wall defining public and private spaces.
Fences enclose the rest of the property. The rear of the lot was used for
small gardens fruit trees and outbuildings. The Spanish house was entered
by passing through a gate in the street-side wall into to a side yard, and
subsequently from the side yard into the house. Window to the street were
protected with wooden grating to permit protected conversation between the
house and the street. Windows where not glazed with glass but had wooden
shutters that could be closed to keep out weather, insects or enemies.
Exterior doors opened inward so they could be barred against invasions.
Kitchens were most often in separate building. The Spanish stove had no
chimney and smoke from the charcoal fire found its way out through the roof
or smoke holes. Heating was provided by charcoal braziers carried from
room to room; there were no fire places.
How do traditional Spanish homes differ from the housing you are used
The houses were still nothing special-half-timbered structures of wattle and
daub with cypress supports and straw or palmetto thatch." (Waterbury, 1983)
The one or two celled plan is so widely used all over the world that we should
be surprised only if it were NOT found in St Augustine. The prototype is the
rectangular one-room cottage of the medieval laborer, a shelter that provided
only the necessities: a roof to keep off the rain; walls to stop the wind; a
hearth for cooking; and perhaps a ladder to a sleeping loft.
Two rooms were about all most householder would claim, but whenever
possible that core was added on to-another room: a loggia, preferably on the
sunny south side or a second story when there was enough money to buy the
increasingly scarce wood. An added balcony could mean still another room,
for it served as a resting place, a storeroom, a place to dry clothes out of the
How might the ideas about housing that people brought from Spain
make adapting to a new environment more difficult?
Economics affected a homeowner's choice of building materials and the size
of the house. Most residents of Spanish colonial St Augustine were soldiers
stationed at the Castillo. They were paid irregularly by the Governor,
dependent on the arrival of supply ships. Most of them had secondary trade
or artisan skills that could earn extra pay when off duty.
Following Drake's burning of the town in 1702, the government offered aid to
enable householders to regain or even surpass his pre-1702 status. The
assistance touched almost every family in St. Augustine, because the
Governor used government personnel to obtain the materials that people
needed for building. Financial aid in response to citizens claims, though slow,
was of great importance. Quite likely, the government also furnished
technical help in the form of royal engineers, construction superintendents,
and master builders in various trades.
In 1702, after working for many years to build the Castillo of coquina, the
Governor made scrap coquina blocks available for sale to townspeople.
If you were a Castillo soldier, what kind and size of house would you
most likely build?
Science/Technology and Architecture
Early Spanish carpenters had limited tools available for construction. The first
homes were probably built using a wattle and daub style of construction using
the plentiful native plants, with the addition of a palmetto thatched roof.
After 1690, pit saws produces roughly sawn boards suitable for housing. The
Spanish also learned how to quarry and build with coquina in order to use it
the build a stronger fort.
In pre-Portland cement days, lime was the universal agent in masonry. It was
made by calcinating limestone or seashells. Mixed with sand, it formed the
mortar used to lay up brick or stone. With sand plus an aggregate such as
pebbles or shell, it was tabby, a versatile material much like modern concrete
and suitable for walls, roof and floors. There were lime formulas for rough
work, fine work, plasters, and whitewashes.
Homebuilders learned to burn the oyster shells to create lime, and then mixed
the lime with sand and crushed oyster shells for form a rough kind of concrete
called tabby. Tabby could be used for walls or flooring.
What technology produced the most fire-resistant housing?
The longest lasting?
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