I. Statement of Objectives
Upon leaving thc Riber Hrntnho vioitzr will kQzw:
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 St. Augustine.
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
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 around 1777.
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. For this
reason, ignore Juan de Rivera in your interpretation. If asked who he
was, simply say that he was the owner of the property in 1763, at the end
of the First Spanish Period. Stress that we are interpreting these sites
in a representational way, not as the properties of real individuals.
RIBERA HOUSE MANUAL
III. The House
A. Is a reconstruction, erected in 1964 by St. Augustine Restoration
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 foundationsindicated 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 Marcos.
4. After 1702 was commonly used in houses.
D. Is plastered inside and out to provide a smooth, easily cleaned
surfacA, and to reduce the absorption of water by the walls. This
was a typical practice. a-_4-0- -,. .Qa-.,.
IV. The Architecture
A. Built on the "St. Augustine plan." Characteristics of thatare:
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. Q / : "zo i,
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 ocean breezes.
RIBERA HOUSE MANUAL
B. Has no windows in the north wall. This is to keep out the chill winds
of winter, which-blew-ehiaefly from the north. Openings to the house 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-
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 -remain somewhat protected from public view.
D. Lacks a fireplace
1. Fireplaces were also rare in First-Spanish-Period dwellings. They
4` became common only during the British Period.
2. For heating their rooms, the Spaniards used braziers, or braseros
(pans of hot coals), See example in front room downstairs. .
(Brasero is pronounced brah-say-roh),
E. Has no -street door/' c vc\ I.
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 below.
G. Has a flat masonry roof. This was known as an azotea (ah-soh-tay-ah).
H. Features some doors and shutters that are 19th-century antiques.
I. Has a detached masonry kitchen
1. Is built on the foundationsof 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
RIBERA HOUSE MANUAL
3. Is a common; though not universal, feature of 18th-century houses.
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 Gall gos House.
B. In present exhibit, the east room downstairs is furnished as an office,
as if the owner were a well-to-do merchant.
C. The west room downstairs is arranged as a dining room. This is one
place the family would normally gather on the lower floor.
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
VI. 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
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 L -in,--B,-4-eove
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 Florda.
RIBERA HOUSE MANUAL
3.) Brought in food, cloth and many items that were not available
through the situado, e.g. sugar, honey, tobacco, rum,
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. .
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 more slaves.
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 upstairs.
VII. The Furnishings
A. None of the items in the house are original to St. Augustine. In fact,
there is no furniture known anywhere that can be documented as having
been here in the late First Spanish Period.
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 furniture-
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 questioned are:
SRIBERA HOUSE MANUAL
1. East room downstairs /
a. Brazier (brasero) a heating device. Hot coals are placed
1, Lu n in the pan, around which people sit to warm their hands and
P4>, c 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.
--h.-3b ar ueno (vahrg- yoh) a distinctively Spanish styie
drop-front desk, detachable from its base, and-with handles
on the side for easy p(6tability.
c. Table one of the few 18th-century items.
d. Ceramic -ewl 4imLiu) white majolica'ware (tin-glaze
earthenware). A typical Hispanic ceramic form. 18th Century.
e. The oem.l4statuette on the vargueno is called a santo
(sahni-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. Probably too fancy for a frontier settlement.
b. Alacena a large cupboard. Has upper and lower doors on
each side. Another of the few 18th-century pieces) ft came
c. Carved bowl rack on south wall. An early-19th-century Spanish piece.
d. "Portrait of Jose Maria de Cabrera y Estenzor as a Child," by
Manuel Serna, 1757. (North wall.) It i tranolateed "Portrait
of Senor Don Joseph Maria de Cabrera y Estenzor, age 4
RIBERA HOUSE MANUAL
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 have survived.)
e. "Madonna with Saints," artist unknown, 18th century. Was acquired
in Cuzco, Peru.
f. Ceramic bowls other examples of )ajolica ware, the classic tin-
glazed earthenware of Spain ~ ?.-,
a. The double rollers are for kneading bread dough. (From Spain-- 19th
b. The rack on the north wall next to the stove is for storing plates.
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 chocolate.
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 oil lamp.
g. The three-legged wooden vessel on the floor is a laundry trough.
h. The lattice-front cupboard (alacena) is an 18th-century Spanish