Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: De Mesa Sanchez House, Block 7 Lot 6
Title: De Mesa - Sanchez house
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: De Mesa - Sanchez house
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: De Mesa Sanchez House, Block 7 Lot 6
Physical Description: Interpretive outline
Language: English
Creator: Stewart, Robert C.
Publication Date: 1982
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
43 Saint George Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
de Mesa-Sanchez House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 43 Saint George Street
Coordinates: 29.896429 x -81.313225
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091263
Volume ID: VID00105
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier: B7-L6

Full Text



The role of the de Mesa-Sanchez House in our interpretive program is

twofold: (1) to present the visitor with a sampling of life in St.

Augustine during the American Territorial Period, particularly the

1830's; (2) to summarize the visitor's tour of San Agust(n Antiguo by

showing how the evolution of the house and its changing ownership

reflected the changes in St. Augustine in the late 18th and early 19th

centuries. The latter is primarily though not exclusively served

by the slide presentation and the exhibits.

The interpretation of the 1830's should be the major concern of the

guide as he or she leads a group through the furnished portion of the

house. We can allow some room for discussion of the building's history,

especially where the architectural evidence is so strong (the interior

windows, the stairs in front of the window). But our main aim is that

visitors should leave the tour with a vivid impression of life here in

the 1830's, and be able to compare and contrast it with life in the

earlier periods.


Here we shall introduce the visitors to the hypothetical "family" who

have come to occupy the de Mesa-Sanchez House. You, the guide, should

move to a position roughly in front of the door leading to the stair

hall. Gathering the group around the dining table, you should introduce

the family as follows:

(1) The family consists of a father, mother, and several children,

including a baby. The number, age and sex of the children are not


important, although we do suggest the inclusion of at least one girl

because of the toy teaset upstairs.

(2) They are fairly well-to-do financially, capable of purchasing the

various items around the room. These are very up-to-date furnishings

for an up-to-date family.

(3) They employ a live-in servant (not a slave), who is minding the

baby while the family has gone sailing, picnicing on Anastasia Island,

or strolling along the bayfront. They might be attending the Episcopal

Church (in contrast to the earlier Spanish inhabitants who were all


You may choose to point out individual pieces, but remember: The more

single furnishings you itemize, the more difficult it becomes to

adequately cover the essential points we want to make. I suggest you

either select a few favorites you like and feel you know well, or that

you learn as many as you can and then alter your focus for different

groups. Please do not try to describe every piece in the house!

Before leaving the dining room (or when you first enter it), we suggest

you mention that this room was the porch shown on the Rocque,Map in the

slide show, during the Second Spanish Period. Point out the interior

windows as evidence.


We suggest that you continue discussing the architectural evolution of

the house here. They key point is that research indicates that this room

was probably the location of an outside stair during the Second Spanish

Period. Like the porch which became a dining room, this space was en-

closed to create another room.

When you have a large group, say, more than a dozen people, you might

find this space to be a viable forum in which to introduce the next

four rooms: the waiting room/parlor, entrance hall, office, and storage

room. Rather than attempt to cram a large group into any of these small

rooms, or to try to speak to a line of people strung out through more

than one room, you should consider interpreting the functions of those

rooms at this point (the "business-like" office, the more casual waiting

room for male enjoyments across the hall, the central hall which is

typical of American architecture of the period, the storeroom for the

family's trunks and other belongings). Here you can also describe the

size and location of the original de Mesa structure, as well as its ex-

tension to the south by Joseph Stout in the British Period.

You can also anticipate for the visitors some of the individual items

they will see by saying something like, "Notice how the sofa in the

waiting room has been slipcovered to keep off the dust." Or, "When you

pass through the office, look how the mapmaker has left off Lake Okeechobee

on his 1837 map of Florida. Although he probably knew it existed, the

area around it was then occupied by hostile Seminoles. Since he wanted

an accurate survey, he just left it out completely." Or, "Behind these

stairs, when you pass through the storage room, you will see how the

stairs were built in front of an older window." By telling the visitors

to watch for certain furnishings or aspects of the building's architecture,

you can avoid the problems of interpreting to Crunching Crowds or Strung-

Out Stragglers. You might also stand a step or two up the stairs while

you're speaking, thereby keeping people from wandering upstairs unattended,

make yourself heard and seen, and keep the crowd from dispersing throughout
the downstairs. After you're finished, then lead the group through the

four rooms, at a steady but casual pace, leaving some time for questions

if you wish.


Again, use this space to your advantage. If you keep the doors into

the parlor and the exhibit rooms closed, and you stand roughly in front

of the hall cupboard, you should be able to see most everyone, be seen

and heard yourself, and provide a good introduction to the two bedrooms.

Suggest things for the visitor to look for: "Look at the beautiful signed

coverlet on the bed in the children's room." "One of my favorite pieces

in the house will be seen in the master bedroom up front a painted New

England potty commode that's made to appear as a small chest when closed.

It might have been used by the mother, who is sick with consumption

(tuberculosis). You can see her medicines on the chest of drawers.

She was one of many Northerners who came here for health reasons during

the Territorial Period." Give the visitors great expectations they

will pay attention when they see the objects later.


This is one of the few rooms where you can reasonably handle a large

group. Once you have adequately explained the function of the room

(and why it's upstairs) you should feel free to point out a few of the

furnishings, since these are by far the finest in the house. We again

suggest that you select one or two for close attention, but consider

describing different ones for different tours. Unless you know that

a new group isn't close on your heels (listen for the slide show), then

you should skip the balcony. Too many people will stop to take pictures

of the street!

Direct the group into the exhibit rooms and you're ready for the next



(1) Keep the tour under 12 minutes unless you know for certain

that you have more time.

(2) If there are two guides, we suggest you split up between upstairs

and downstairs. (We can, under this arrangement, handle up to three

groups, with even more wandering through the exhibit. This is

obviously not a desirable situation, but it can happen.)

(3) Change your focus for different tours, keeping in mind that we

have one basic storyline we're trying to follow. It's possible to

make the same point from different angles, using different items.

(4) Use your imagination! Be flexible! There is the need for a

stronger element of crowd control under the guided tour system,

but that should only make you sharpen your wits for an ultimately

better presentation. Necessity is, after all, the mother of


Robert C. Stewart
April 1982

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs