JIiStoric Stl A uutine
SPrfe ev ation boa rdc
The State of Florida
July 19, 1988
SUBJECT: DeMesa House Project Proposal
Attached is our proposal for the DeMesa-Sanchez House
project which we have been discussing for several months.
for you to submit it to the Project Committee for approval
We would like
to go ahead
We will need to coordinate this with you, but couldn't decide if
Susan Parker should have to be on this committee, or not. Perhaps we
could call on her for research assistance only. I would also like to
involve Jon and Maureen if they are interested, and of course, Esther.
POST OFFICE BOX 1987
ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA 32085
A Proposal for the Interpretive Development of the
DeMesa Sanchez House 1988-1989
Over the past few months, Valerie, Marsha and Esther have met several
times for the preliminary planning of this project. Esther has accomplished
considerable research on objects of the period, and Valerie has inventoried
collections to determine what is available which can be used. Marsha and
Valerie have also toured the house with Bob Harper, noting his suggestions
for furnishings and interpretation. A file of his research on the subject
already existed. Susan Parker has done some documentary research, as well.
The visitor enters through a gate into a grassed yard area. The
structure is restored to 1840. Orientation is given by means of exhibits in
the two eastern rooms on the second floor. The large "kitchen" on the first
floor currently houses a slide presentation which is out of order. The rest
of the structure is interpreted as a residence of either a wealthy
businessman from the north or perhaps a Minorcan plantation owner escaping
the Indian fighting. The interpretation is somewhat confused and tends to
focus on the furniture and structure rather than people.
There is no interpretation of the yard area. When visitors enter the
area, they get no sense of "living history."
The visitor then passes through a gate following an "Exit" sign. To the
left is a structure where candle dipping is demonstrated twice a week. To
the right is a structure that houses the store. These two buildings are not
really interpreted. Adding to the visitors' confusion is the fact that the
candle maker is interpreted as an 18th century character. This causes the
visitor to re-enter the 18th century and then jump into-the 20th.
Therefore, the problems we have identified are:
1) There is no outdoor living history aspect at the DeMesa House.
2) The kitchen is not being used to its best interpretive advantage.
3) We are not providing the human aspect for visitors through the
interpretation of a specific family or individuals.
4) The centuries are mixed up as visitors move between the DeMesa
and DeBurgo-Pellicer houses.
Premise: When the visitors pass through the fence, they have left 1740
and arrived in 1840. They will be able, if so inclined, to draw comparisons
between lifeways in the two centuries.
1) The Yard: We would like to expand the backyard to include
activity areas. In our opinion, this would involve: a) removing
the fence between the DeMesa yard and the back of the DeBurgo-
Pellicer kitchen; b) erecting a fence from the southwest corner
of the storage building; c) removing the shelter from the DeBurgo-
Pellicer yard (it can be reconstructed to serve as the children's
orientation area near Triay House); d) building a privy (Manucy,
page 127); e) erecting a clothesline; f) putting a mashpot in the
yard; g) planting orange trees and/or vegetables; h) planting'
roses (this idea is to accommodate the roses which must be removed
from the Ribera garden when excavation begins); and i) construction
of a well.
2) The Kitchen: We believe that the kitchen should be interpreted as
an active, working space furnished with implements and objects of
the period, as well as fresh food. The kitchen was a room of
extreme importance in the nineteenth century. Much of a woman's
daily life was spent within it. Chores included preparing food
(i.e. plucking the chicken, making preserves etc.), cooking,
washing, mending, scrubbing floors, ironing and even soap- and
candle-making. Many of these activities can be incorporated into
the interpretation of the room. Other activities that would have
taken place in the kitchen include bathing, so even that activity
can be discussed.
In the winter, many activities would have taken place in the
kitchen because of the warmth. In Florida's hot summers, much
kitchen activity would have taken place outside on the loggia.
Activities such as mending, etc. would move to cooler locations
inside the house.
Cooking would probably not be conducted there as part of
interpretation due to the need to protect interior furnishings
from grease and odors. This would require: a) removing the
screen from the north wall; b) some construction of shelves,
cabinets, and, perhaps, an oven; c) the acquisition of large items
such as a stove; d) the use of many objects now in our collections;
e) finding and purchasing some small objects; f) handcrafting some
wooden and iron objects; g) the installation of plexiglass in the
kitchen window so that the shutters could be left open for light.
3) General Interpretation: From the interpretive standpoint, it is
necessary to choose a single time period and stick to it. If 1840
is the date we wish to interpret, all incorrect furnishings, such
as the Sanchez painting, should be removed. While we do not know
who actually lived in the house in 1840, we should "create" a
scenario for interpretation and use it exclusively. The choices
seem to be: a) a northern family rented the house, or b) a local
Minorcan or partly Minorcan family rented the house. Using the
northern family we can interpret influences and changes brought on
by Florida becoming a U.S. Territorty. Using the Minorcan concept,
we can interpret adaptation by the local (Minorcan/Spanish)
population to the new government and culture which dominated the
town. We advocate finding a way to bring the Minorcan culture
into our interpretation.
We also feel that the candle kitchen should be interpreted as
a ninteenth century building, in order to avoid jumping from one
century to another, and back again.
4) The Future: We have discussed several additional concepts which
bear consideration. They are: a) Putting the interpretive panels
upstairs into chronological order. This should be done as soon as
possible; b) Moving all exhibit panels into one room, possibly
incorporating the slide presentation as a video presentation, and
interpreting the small upstairs exhibit room as a living unit. It
has been suggested that it be used for crafts, such as quilting or
weaving, or that it be furnished as a bathing area; c) Removing
the exhibit panels and furnishing the exhibit room(s) as the
"grandmother's quarters," where Minorcan (hispanic) elements could
We would like to complete changes in the kitchen and yard during the
1988-1989 fiscal year, and to initiate the removal of all temporarily
inappropriate furnishings. In addition, Marsha will have the upstairs
interpretive panels placed in chronological order, beginning at the exterior
door, in the near future. The possible development of the upstairs exhibit
rooms should probably be accomplished in 1989-1990.