DE MESA-SANCHEZ HOUSE: AN ABBREVIATED GUIDED TOUR
AND SUGGESTIONS FOR CROWD CONTROL P g /-l- -
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 t.
Augustine during the American Territorial Period, particularly the
1830's; (2) to summarize the visitor's tour of San Agustin Antig o by
showing how the evolution of the house and its changing ownershi.
reflected the changes in St. Augustine in the late 18th and earl 19th
centuries. The latter is primarily though not exclusively s rved
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.f 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.
II. DINING ROOM
Here we shall introduce the visitors to the hypothetical "family" who
have come to occupy the de Mesa-rnch-ez House. You, the guide, should
move to a position roughly in front of the door leading to the tair
hall. Gathering the group around the dining table, you should introduce
-"1 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 tearset 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 tendinq 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 eoese-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 eohang 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 it was the porch shown on the Rocque Map in the slide show,
a during the Second Spanish Period. Point out the interior windowasA evi-cce,
--. III. STAIR HALL (DOWNSTAIRS)
We suggest that you continue discussing the architectural evolution of
the house here. The key point is that research indicates that this room
:a 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 intr L Jitx _^ m,-t chat the functions
of these rooms ase (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
extension 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." "When you
pass through the office, look how the mapmaker has left off Lake
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Okeechobee Although he probably knew it existed, i 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 furnish-
ings or aspects of the building's architecture, you can avoid the problems
of interpreting to Crunching Crowds or Strung-Out Stragglers. You can
also, in this room, stand a step or two up the stairs, thereby keeping
people fiom wandering y unattended, make yourself heard and seen, and
keep the crowd from dispersing throughout the downstairs.
IV. STAIR HALL(UPSTAIRS)
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: "On the bed in the children's
room, look at the beautiful signed coverlet." "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 con-
sumption (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 visitorsgreat expecta-
ti6ns willl pay attention when yseep the objectslater.
--~-- 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
4o -Ibc- Sf/4yl \
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 a stronger element
of crowd control under the guided tour system, but that should only
make you uee your wits for an ultimately better presentation. Necessity
is, after all, the mother of invention.
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