The deMesa-Sanchez house, a furnished house museum is restored
to represent the year 1837. This was a transitional time in the de-
corative arts, a time when people had tired of the baroque style char-
acterized by curved and highly ornamented forms and bright colors.
"Furniture reveals many confidential things about the social life of
the past and present; like architecture it amplifies and illuminates
the story of civilization in nearly every country, and provides an
intimate, personal record of habits, postures, manners, fashions and
follies."' This pattern of furniture revealing the style of living of
its owner is typ ified in the deMesa-Sanchez house.
Curving lines of the older pieces of furniture are scattered about
the house but generally relegated to the rooms where less entertaining
is apt to occur. Symmetry is prevalent both in individual pieces of
furniture and in the way in which objects are placed in a room. This
reflects a return to a style of living more ordered and is usually
referred to as the neoclassical style.
In the 1830's another style became popular. This was the Federal
style, typified by increased patriotism of people who in turn display-
ed their patriotism around the home in the form of portraits of leaders
of the country, books on related subjects and sometimes colors. In
general this change of style of living reflected in the everyday objects
found in the home was called the "Age of Enlightenment." Two persons
whose work, now well known, was indicative of the mood of the time are
Henry David Thoreau and John James Audubon, who visited St. Augustine.
"In understanding the character of the American home between 1750
and 1850 the continual comings and goings cannot be overemphasized.
Lawrence Stone defines the English early modern family as 'a loose
association of transients.' In America a similar definition could be
applied to many households into the nineteenth century. Yet, the looser,
the more fugacious their lives, the more tightly ordered their house-
hold arrangements and interiors. The Enlightenment ideals of order and
synthesis were pervasive not only in the sustained rhythm of household
operations, but in the similarity of the floor plans and furnishings
of the houses themselves. This sameness, this desire to conform, was
noted by many observers, both native and foreign....The regularity of
the Enlightenment interior was further demonstrated by precise linear
borders and a careful attention to clear spatial definitions through
contrasts of materials and/or colors."2
It is now widely believed that the industrialization of America
brought about the remarkable changes in family structure and the organi-
zation of the American home. Households were managed with a regularity
akin to clockwork, with furniture rigidly in its place, usually against
the wall and out of the way. "Grandparents and other relations very
frequently swelled the family circle and children came and went. Before
the cult of motherhood and the notion of the nuclear family became en-
trenched in the mid-nineteenth century, parents, anxious to improve
their children and wary of spoiling them, would often send them to re-
lations, friends, and boarding schools for varying lengths of time.
1Gloag, John. A Social History of Furniture Design. Bonanza Books,
N.Y., 1966, p.l.
2"The American Home, Part I, Centre and Circumference." The Magazine
Antiques, January 1983, no pages listed.