For those of you interested in our current architectural obsession, my friend Linda shared this good article on Cracker Houses:
In these days of “shabby chic” home decor and “grunge” fashion, “Cracker” houses are making a comeback in the Deep South. Florida developers are trying to capture the casual, homey style with modern developments sporting metal roofs, cedar siding and deep shade porches. The St. Petersburg Times dubs the mini building boom, “Cracker Chic.”
While pioneers to the Deep South found an inhospitable land of searing heat, merciless biting insects and semi-tropical rains, settlers to these new “rustic” deed-restricted, gated communities leave air-conditioned homes to stroll on paved streets and sidewalks leading to swimming pools and clubhouses. Promotional literature for one of the planned developments, Riverwalk, near Gainesville, boats of a “Key West style of architecture in keeping with the charm of the old Florida Cracker homes.” Another, Seaside, claims that the pricey development is “more than design. It is a way of life.”
Long time regarded as a poor relative in the family of American architecture, Cracker style is now being celebrated for its inventiveness and energy efficiency.
In its simplest form, a Cracker house is a wooden shelter built by the early Florida and Georgia settlers. Lured to Florida by cheap and plentiful land, these pioneers arrived with few provisions and needed to erect shelter quickly and cheaply. The brush provided abundant supplies of cedar and cypress. Rocks or bricks made of oyster shell and lime served as pilings to keep the shelters off the ground. A wide shade porch wasn’t just an embellishment. In pre-air-conditioned Florida, the porches provided relief from the relentless sun.
The Florida Cooperative Extension Service notes the energy efficiency of the style it calls “Florida Vernacular:” Site orientation for shade, wide, covered porches, crawl spaces beneath the homes for ventilation, and windows that took advantage of cross breezes. Floor cracks “helped with house cleaning, and raised first floor was used to keep hounds (hunting) and chickens (food), which in turn provided service of consuming fleas and other pests,” according to an extension publication on energy efficiency.
The simplest of these cabins were called single pen houses. As money permitted and family size dictated, these “single pen” square cabins often were added to, producing such fanciful names as “saddlebag” and “dog-trot” house.
The dogtrot house is our favorite style and you can see our current plans here.
We didn’t manage to close on our land this week, but I did talk to a friend with a sawmill who is interested in cutting boards for me for the framing and sides of my house.
This week I was also able to get in touch with Ronald Haase, the author of Classic Cracker, who told me he would be happy to look at the beautiful plans Sid drew up for us. How cool is that?
Have a great weekend.