to the Ribera House
In W se we will inform the visitor about
A. The basic characteristics of vernacular St. Augustine
architecture of the First Spanish Period, as illustrated
by the Ribera House.
B. The composition and role of the upper class in Spanish
II. History of the Site
A. The date the house was constructed is unknown, but it was
sometime prior to 1763. Do not believe the plaque under
the stairs, which indicates a construction date in the
1730's. There is no way of knowing this.
B. The owner in 1763 was an artilleryman named Juan de Rivera
1. Was an Indian, native of the mission village of
Tolomato (which stood where the old cemetery
on Cordova Street is located.)
2. Was an artilleryman in the garrison
3. Married Lorenza Ramos, a Canary Islander, about 1761.
4. Died in Cuba in 1772.
C. The house was demolished during the British Period, probably
D. Most likely, Rivera was not the original owner. The
house seems to have been an old one to which Rivera
made additions or repairs.
E. There is simply not enough information to tell much about
the history of the house.
COMMENT: Obviously, we cannot interpret this elegant reconstruction
as the house of a poor artilleryman who was an Indian to boot. Fdr
this reason, ignore Juan de Rivera in your interpretation. If asked
who he was, smp say sthat he was t-e owner of the property in 1763,
at the end of the First Spanish Period. Stress that we are inter-
preting these sites in a representational way, not as the properties o
III. The House
A. Is a reconstruction, erected in 1964 by St. Augustine
Restoration Foundation, Inc.
B. Is built over the foundations of the original Ribera
House, so it conforms in dimensions and floor plan to
the original. The width of the foundations indicated
that the original building had two stories.
C. Is built of coquina. Coquina:
1. Is a type of limestone formed of compacted sea shells.
2. Is found in large deposits along the northeast
coast of Florida.
3. Was used in the construction of the Castillo de San
4. After 1702 was commonly used in houses.
D. Is plastered inside and out to provide a smooth, easily
cleaned surface and to reduce the absorption of water
by the walls. This was a typical practice. Walls were
whitewashed on a regular basis.
IV. The Architecture
A. Built on the "St. Augustine plan." Characteristics of
that plan are:
1. Two or more rooms
2. A loggia along one side, usually the east or south
side. A loggia
a. Is an open-sided room built into or projecting
from the side of the building. A true loggia
has at least two solid walls.
b. Provides extra living and work space.
c. Makes the house more comfortable, especially
if it is located on the south side.
1.) In winter, when the sun is low in the
southern sky, the loggia is warmed by sunlight
2.) In summer, when the sun is high, the loggia
is shady and open to the cooling southeast
B. Has no windows in the north wall. This is to keep out the
chill northerly winds of winter. Openings to the houses
are from the west, east and south--the directions of spring
and summer breezes.
C. Has no window glass, the openings being protected by wooden
shutters that open to the inside (not to the outside, as
does the standard Anglo-American shutter).
1. Window glass was rare in First-Spanish-Period houses.
2. Glass did not become common until the British Period.
3. Street windows are protected by a grating, called
a reja. This gave both protection and privacy.
Women could sit in the window and look out yet be
shielded from public view.
D. Lacks a fireplace
1. Fireplaces were also rare in First-Spanish-Period
dwellings. They became common only during the
2. For heating their rooms, the Spaniards used braziers,
or braseros (pans of hot coals), a device commonly
used in Mediterranean cultures. Its use was a matter
of cultural preference. See example in front room
(Brasero is pronounced brah-say-roh).
E. Has no door opening onto the street.
1. This was typical
2. Most houses were entered from the patio.
F. Has an outside stairway, another typical feature, and a
gallery on the second floor that corresponds to the loggia
G. Has a flat,masonry roof. This was known as an azotea
H. Features some doors and shutters that are 19th-century
I. Has a detached masonry kitchen
1. Is built on the foundations of the 18th-century kitchen
2. Is removed from the house to
a. Eliminate danger of fire
b. Keep smoke and cooking odors out of living area
3. Is a common; though not universal, feature of 18th-
Interpretive Note: In most of its architectural features, the
Ribera House resembles the humble Gallegos House across the street.
It is distinguished by being larger, more solid, and more elegant.
V. Use of Space
A. There is more differentiation and specialization in the
use of space in this house than in the Gallegos House.
B. In the present exhibit, the east room downstairs is
furnished as an office, as if the owner were a well-to-do
C. The west room downstairs is arranged as a dining room.
This is one place the family would normally gather on the
D. The upstairs rooms and loggia area comprise the living
quarters of the family. Here the women would have spent
most of their hours at domestic activities.
V. The Upper Status Elements in St. Augustine
A. The Ribera House should be interpreted as representative
of the dwelling of an upper status family of the late
First Spanish Period.
B. The upper class people in St. Augustine consisted of
1. Those who enjoyed rank and position
a. The governor and royal officials (i.e. the
accountant and the treasurer)
b. The officers of the garrison, particularly
the sergeant-major, the captains, ensigns,
and lieutenants. (See outline of St. Augustine
in the First Spanish Period, part 1, pages 8 9.)
2. Those who commanded greater than average wealth
a. Included those noted above
b. Also included a few relatively well-to-do merchants
1.) Owned their own ships.
2.) Traded with Cuba, Mexico, and English
colonies north of Florida
3.) Brought in food, cloth and many items that
were not available through the situado, e.g.
sugar, honey, tobacco, rum, ceramic ware.
C. Family connections were also important determinants of
status. Certain families, such as the Menendez Marques,
Horruytiner, and de Hita Salazar, regularly held important
posts and commanded great respect, (the names are pronounce
May-nen-,des Mar-kess', O-ruy-tee-ner, and Day Ee-tah
D. We can safely say that position and family counted for
more on the scale of status than wealth.
E. Upper class individuals and families usually owned one or
a. Helped work in the fields surrounding St. Augustine
b. Provided domestic service.
2. Consequently, the women of this social group probably
bore fewer burdens of a domestic nature and would have
had time to do needlework of the type displayed upstair
VII. The Furnishings
A. None of the items in the house are original to St. Augustin
In fact, there is no furniture known anywhere that can be
documented as having been here in the late First Spanish
B. Most of the pieces were purchased in Spain, the rest in
Latin America. Most are antiques, but of the 19th, not the
18th, century. Stylistically, however, there is not that
much difference between vernacular furniture of the two
periods, owing to the strong conservatism of Spanish
C. The type of furniture, its placement and use, are quite
typically Hispanic. Chests and trunks are the predominant
pieces. They could be used for storage, for seating, and
for table space.
D. Some of the outstanding pieces about which you may be
1. East room downstairs
a. Brazier (brasero) a heating device. Hot
coals from the kitchen are placed in the pan,
around which people sit to warm their hands and
feet. The typical heating device used in the
First Spanish period, the brazier was still being
used by Minorcans in St. Augustine as late as
the mid-19th century.
b. Vargueno (vahr-gain-yoh) a distinctively Spanish
drop-front desk, detachable from its base, with
handles on the side for easy portability.
c. Table one of the few 18th-century items.
d. Ceramic basin white majolica (mah-jol-li-cah)
ware (tin-glaze earthenware). A typical Hispanic
ceramic form. 18th Century.
e. The statuette on the vargueno is called a santo
(sahn-toh), or saint. Most Spanish families-had
images of popular saints whom they invoked for aid
or protection. The image was usually that of one's
individual patron saint, of the patron of one's trade
or profession, or of a saint that the family, for one-
reason or another, particularly venerated. Unfortunately
this particular one is unidentified.
2. Dining Room
a. Table although large and heavy, it is easily taken
apart for portability. Probablytoo fancy for a frontier
b. Alacena (ah-lah-say-nah) a large cupboard. Has
upper and lower doors on each side. Another of the
few 18th-century pieces, it came from Spain.
c. Carved bowl rack on south wall. An early-19th century
d. "Portrait of Jose Maria de Cabrera y Estenzor as a
Child,: by Manuel Serna, 1757. (North wall.) The
writing on the ,cartouche reads, "Portrait of Senor
Don Joseph Maria de Cabrera y Estenzor, age 4 years
and 13 days born 1 April 1757 and died on the 13th of
said month in 1758 (sic)." (Paintings are found in the
few upper-class estate inventories that havejsurvived.)
e. "Madonna with Saints," artist unknown, 18th century.
Was acquired in Cuzco, Peru.
f. Ceramic bowls other examples of majolica ware, the
classic tin-glazed earthenware of Spain and Mexico.
a. The double rollers are for kneading bread dough.
(From Spain--19th century.)
b. The rack on the north wall next to the stove is for
c. The carved wooden piece on top of the two wooden buckets
is a yoke for carrying them.
d. The long-handled pot hanging from the decorative rack on
the west wall near the stove is a chocolate pot. The
wooden device in it is a molinillo (moh-lee-nee'-yoh), or
muddler, a type of stirring stick for whipping the hot
e. The spear-like instrument standing in the southwest corner
is an eel gig.
f. The device hanging from a chain over the old table is an
g. The three-legged wooden vessel on the floor is a laundry
h. The lattice-front cupboard (alacena) is an 18th-century