Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: De Mesa Plans
Title: [Message to Marsha re papers at SAHS]
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Full Citation
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091264/00035
 Material Information
Title: Message to Marsha re papers at SAHS
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: De Mesa Plans
Physical Description: Correspondence
Language: English
Creator: Parker, Susan
 Subjects
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: UF00091264
Volume ID: VID00035
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier: B7-L6

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real ranch houses never were a true architectural style. What we are build-
ing might more accurately be called "split-level chicken houses" because the
farmer's hen house always had these exact same functional lines.
The arrangement of rooms in the farmhouse was left to the wife, but-to the
farmer went the task of putting outbuildings in their proper places. The pre-
vailing wind, rain-drainage, the contour of the land and proximity to the
farmhouse, decided where the ground cellar, the smoke house, the summer
kitchen, the butchering shed, the woodshed, the spring house and the wash
house went.
The greatest slant of their roofs always facing the north and their en-
trances toward the south, outbuildings or "farm-outhousen" were part of a
vanished American architecture that has been overlooked. Built with the same
architectural care as the home, these buildings were actually as much part of
the household, as any room in the farmhouse.


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Wall-papered and curtained, discreetly embowered at a considerable dis-
tance from the back of the house, was the privy. It was not regarded with the
petty humor that surrounds it today, but was taken as seriously as the design
of a bathroom is today. The familiar crescent cut into these doors originally
designated the building as being one reserved for ladies, for the moon was al-
ways regarded as being female. The sun being regarded as male, it was once
used as the design on the doors for gentlemen.


It stretches the modern imagination to think of a privy being architecturally
exquisite, yet those built on the southern plantations were delicately designed,
often surrounded by statuary, and always in strict keeping with the style of
the main house. It is a far cry from the back-house shed that New England
country boys overturned as Hallowe'en sport, to the Greek Revival privies
of the early south. In many cases where the plantation house was large and
rambling, the builder found his fullest expression concentrated in this one
small outbuilding, and the privy became a better piece of architecture than
the home itself.
There is no evidence that the earliest settlers harvested ice, but they were
aware of the low and uniform degrees of underground temperatures. Al-
though most obsolete ground cellars have since caved in or have been covered
up, the old farms depended on them for'preservation of most food, protect-
ing it against the heat of summer and the freezing of winter. The sketch of
the Pennsylvanian ground cellar shows a popular and ingenious arrangement
of placing the cellar against the cool walls of the well. Both the well and
ground cellar are available to the outside kitchen just above. Some of the old
ground cellars are still in use as "root cellars" for storing vegetables, others
are supposed to have been used as hiding places for slaves or for protection


against the Indians; but vanishing from the farmstead scene, they are really
yesterday's kitchen refrigerators.
A few years ago, air-conditioning experts utilized the coolness of cellars to
force cooler air up and throughout the house wherever forced hot air is used
for heating during the winter. Recently built atomic-bomb shelters have been
reported to be the coolest places in the summer; some of them have been used
for storage of fruits, being better than refrigerators for that purpose. We now
think of a cellar as being the necessary thing to put under a house, but the
first farmhouses used them for exactly what the word meant. It comes from
the French meaning "pantry" or "store-place for food."
The fact that the earliest farmhouses had dirt floors is a reminder that
there was no "foundation-room" or cellar (in the modern sense of the word)
beneath. Often the whole farmhouse rested on the ground while the cellar
(for food storage) was a short distance away.
If you own an old farmhouse, you might have wondered why your cellar
walls have occasional protruding stones. These were put there to support
shelves for fruit, and all the jars and crocks of preserves that were kept "cel-
larwise," at the right temperatures in summer and winter. Only when central
heating became part of the house picture, were pantry stores moved upstairs
to make room for the furnace and fuel.
The outside cellar door which became so dear to all childhood memories, was
originally slanted to take the entrance of garden vegetables in a wheelbar-









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Necessaries
Sanitary facilities are poorly recorded, except for occasional
and casual mention of the "necessary" (necesaria) or "house of of-
fice." Thus, while the Governor's House in 1763 had masonry-
walled necessaries with separate .shingled roofs (each must have
stood in solitary grandeur), we remain uninformed as to design
and capacity. The void is filled in some measure by a 1787 plan of
a privy at the Customs House. Although its finer details have not
been preserved, this one-holer measured 39x44 inches, with a seat
about a foot wide. The aperture seems to have been a plain circle
some 9 inches in diameter.179
The refinements mentioned in "an 1833 contract for a new
necessary on the Governor's House property are probably in the old
tradition: "a good double privy . of carpenter's work: the holes
made oval, and covered with lids on hinges; two for children, lower
than the larger ones, and the side privy to be painted blue, with two
good coats of paint." The intent of the project was duly carried out,
except that instead of wood, a "complete double stone privy" was
built. But surely chill masonry was not employed for the interior
appointments!
At the other end of the scale from this blue-painted backhouse
was a British one built of "rough boards & roofed with the same."1so

Stables, Fowl Houses, and Stores
The Governor's House had a stable (caballeriza), and doubt-
less there were others. The British period saw numerous stables,
from the hastily-built open shed to an unusual tile-roofed, timber-
framed structure. Some were big enough for three, four and six
horses. Most were frame buildings, but one was described as having
"a stone wall at the back and ... open in the front." Watson the
carpenter converted a large range of stables into a 7-room house,
20x80 feet.181
Other outbuildings included the wash house (lavadero), the
chicken house (gallinero), or in the English town the "fowl house"
and the pigeon loft. If pigeons were less important as winter food
than in medieval times, pigeon pie was nonetheless a welcome
change for the table. Some yards also had a "hog house" and various
sheds, storehouses and even a strange structure described as "large
Stone Cellar in the Yard" with "a small bed Room of Wood adjoin-
ing it." 182




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