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:

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