This is typical of a "fine" house, occupied by a prominent
well-to-do family. It is a reconstruction, rebuilt on original 18th
century foundations. Unlike most two-story houses in the historic
sections of St. Augustine it had two stories from the beginning,
whereas most were one-story flat-tops upon which a wooden second
level was added during the English occupation 1763-1783. As in the
original, this building was built of coquina, plastered all over inside
and out to keep out moisture, and has tabby (shell-lime concrete)
floors. Like all First Spanish Period homes it had no glass in the
windows, only shutters. Entrance from the street through a gate-
way into the patio is typical. So is the loggia and outside stairway.
Downstairs may be seen the living room and dining room.
The former was for use by the father of the family as an "office"
and to meet business associates, or by both owner and wife for social
gatherings. The furniture, all 18th century antiques, was purchased
by the Restoration Commission in Spain. The large table with drawers
has high chairs at the ends; cushions or footstools were used to keep
the occupants' feet off the cold tabby floor. In the northeast corner
stands a typical "vargueio"cr drop-front desk on a matching base.
The three leather-upholstered arm-chairs were both economical and
practical in a warm climate. The large chest of drawers was used to
store blankets, linens, and winter garments; a horizontal chest oppo-
site served a similar purpose as well as being a bench for seating
extra guests. The tiny chest held family heirlooms. During chilly
weather the brass brazier contained hot coals from the kitchen for
warming feet resting on its brass-topped stand. Wrought iron chan-
delier and floor candelabra held bayberry candles, used only for special
occasions due to cost; small brass lamps burning fish oil served every-
Art objects decorating the room include paintings, small statues,
and an early 19th century rug from Turkey used as a table-runner.
Largest of the pictures is a "Madonna With Angels", painted in Spain
early in the 19th century but done in the style of the 17th century mas-
ter, Murillo.. On the west wall is a portrait of an unknown bishop,
an 18th century Italian work; opposite it is an 18th century Spanish pic-
ture of a gardener holding a flower, imitating the style of Spain's 17th
century court painter, Velasquez. On the east wall is a Spanish colonial
piece from Cuzco in Peru, a "Madonna of the Seven Sorrows". In the
glass case on top of the desk is a Santoo" or figure of the family's
patron saint, made in Spain about 1750.
The large chest of drawers served as the family altar for
morning and evening prayers. An 18th century book-stand in the
center is typical, to display a Bible or prayer book depending on the
occasion. Candles and crucifix complete the arrangement.
An early 19th century silver and glass inkstand set holds a
quill pen of the type used in the original house; it is from Mexico.
In the dining room can be seen a typical 18th century middle-
class grouping: heavy table, leather-upholstered chairs, and storage
cabinets. Oldest item in the house is the 17th century cupboard in
the northwest corner, to hold food and wine. Opposite this is a buffet
for silver and dishes. The horizontal chest held linens (used only for
guests or special occasions). In the corner stands a tall dish-cupboard,
called a "confesionario" due to its resemblance to a confessional
booth. All the dishes are Spanish "majolica" ware, made early in the
19th century (but unchanged for 200 years before that, so ours are
authentic in appearance); some bear the insignia of the monastic order
to which they once belonged. The wall-hanging is made of alternating
hand-woven strips, using the Moorish pomegranate motif; the material
is old but was sewed together in this manner in modern times. The
mortar-and-pestle set on the wall is found in all Spanish homes, for
grinding pepper and other spices fresh for use (rather than canned,
as we have). Typical also is the wall rack, suitable for holding pitchers
or bowls indoors, flower pots outdoors. The chandelier with candles,
like the one in the living room, was used only for special occasions;
fish-oil lamps sufficed for everyday illumination.
Most valuable antique item in the house (in terms of original
cost) is the Spanish portrait dated 1757 of Jose Maria de Cabrera y
Estensor as a child, by the painter Manuel Serna.
Items of interest upstairs in the small bedroom are the entrance
doors, from an 18th century house in Spain, and the bed of the same era,
small in appearance but a full-size double bed of the period, when
people were smaller in stature than they are now. Chest and chair are
authentic antiques also.
At the rear is the main bedroom, with typical adult bed,
child's bed, flax-spinning wheel, horizontal chest for bed-linens, and
upright wardrobe for outer garments (because there were no closets
in Spanish houses). The wash-stand is of early 19th century manu-
facture; so is the chest of drawers and the flax reel.
On the wall is an 18th century Flemish painting called "The
Inspiration of a Gospel". The bed-warmer, pitcher, and notched
hair-washing bowl are of the same date. Likewise the small glass
case with Santoo" inside. The black wooden board with hand-hold and
projecting spikes is a flax-hetchel for pulling the fibers into parallel
rows for spinning.
Also upstairs is the "family room", where mother entertained
her friends, where the children played on rainy days, where the sewing
was done, and where the whole family gathered in hot weather to get the
benefit of ocean breezes. In addition to standard items of furnishing such
as the large table and chairs there are special pieces like the prayer-
chair with a seat which can be raised for kneeling, a "papelera" or letter-
file cabinet on a small table for storing family records, and a leather
trunk for traveling. Against the north wall is a large carved bridal chest,
gift of father to daughter at the time of engagement and hopefully filled
with linens by the day of the wedding one to two years later. Embroidery
is in progress on the (modern reproduction) stand near the window.
Behind the house is the two-room kitchen building, re-erected
on the original 18th century foundation. It stands apart from the main
dwelling due to the fire hazard, smoke, and cooking fumes. Meals were
carried to the dining room by servants or slaves. In the main room is
located the built-in "stove" of masonry, from which smoke from the wood
fire has to find its way out the round holes in the ceiling, drying the herbs
and tobacco and smoking the meat hanging from the beams as well. On
the table is a laundry-board. On the floor may be seen a double-roller
dough-kneader for bread, a yoke with iron-banded wooden buckets for
bringing water from the well in the back yard, a home-made palm-leaf
broom, a four-pronged "gig" for spearing eels, and two types of oyster
rake, A fish-oil lamp hangs from the ceiling.
In the same building the other door leads to a tiny room in which
dwelt a slave or servant. Adjacent is the garden where fruit trees, vines,
and vegetables were nurtured at the rear; in front is the formal flower
garden with sun-dial for lounging and entertaining when weather permitted.