Monday, November 28, 2016

Cracker architecture a native style

photo of 1912 Cracker-style house at Manatee Village Historical Park
The Old Settler's House is at Manatee Village Historical Park
in Bradenton. The website says this 1912 house has been
called 'Cracker Gothic' in style.
The calendar says November, but everyone in Florida knows late autumn can have as many toasty days as cool ones. Warm weather is year-round here. That's one reason for the development of the vernacular architectural style known as Florida Cracker. Such homes were designed to fit within their environment and help residents live comfortably in a challenging climate.

The word Cracker as it applies in Florida can refer to a lifestyle, customs, group of people, food, and, yes, architecture. It's the style of building constructed by many pioneer settlers. Cracker houses were wood-frame structures that made use of  Florida's abundant natural resources. Heart pine was particularly durable and readily available in the longleaf pine forests that blanketed the state.

The houses almost without exception featured long, deep porches with extended roofs. Some buildings had detached kitchens to prevent fire and heat from affecting other rooms. And some houses featured what was known as a dog trot. A dog trot was an open passageway situated at the center of the house. The passageway was covered by the roof and porch, and interior rooms opened onto it. The design helped air flow through.

To learn about Cracker architecture from an expert, I recommend you read Classic Cracker, Florida's Wood-Frame Vernacular Architecture, a 1992 Pineapple Press book by architect Ronald W. Haase. The book is informative and filled with photos.

Living-history museums throughout Florida feature restored Cracker homesteads open for tours and self-guided visits. Until you have time to walk through one yourself, enjoy this video from the History of Central Florida Podcast Series:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

'Walk Florida' history, by app

handing holding smartphone open to Florida Stories app
The app puts history in your hands. Photo credit: GooglePlay
I'm all for reading and writing about Florida history ... but a new (to me) app has me excited about listening, too. The Florida Stories project of the Florida Humanities Council allows you to "stroll through history." You take walking tours while listening to audio vignettes that stream via the app.

But, hey, this is an app we're talking about. While waiting for it to download to my phone, I listened to some of the sample audios on the Florida Stories webpage - without being anywhere near the featured locales. Except for the one about DeLand Hall, which I could practically see from my window at the time.

The recent addition of a DeLand Walking Tour was my introduction to the app. Ideally, you listen to the narration while walking and getting close-up views of the featured buildings and learning about the people and culture associated with them. But it's going to be a while, for example, before I get back to Pensacola - some eight hours away by car. So I look forward to enjoying the Walk: Pensacola segments while walking around the block or sitting and enjoying the scenery in my yard. I also look forward to additions of more tours to Florida Stories.

A DeLand tour was recently added to
the app. Photo credit:
Florida Humanities Council
Most of all, I'm thrilled about this mobile avenue for sharing the wealth of historical information that is found in Florida. Too often, the state's history is overshadowed by theme parks, cruise ships, and beaches. All fun in their own way. Yet all built, in their own way, on everything that came before.

Happy listening!

Download the app from Apple's iTunes and Google Play