Florida Vernacular Architecture

Welcome to this week’s Wednesday Workshop, where we will take a look at the history and practicality of Florida’s Vernacular Architecture, as outlined in Section 6.6 of Groveland’s new Community Development Code.

The elements of Florida’s Vernacular Architecture are rooted in practical responses to the state’s humid, subtropical climate. The most commonly recognized example of this style, often termed “Florida Cracker,” originated in the 1800s and resembled the elevated chickee huts built by the Seminole Indian tribes.

Using wood from hardwood hammocks, cypress swamps and pine forests, early pioneers utilized high ceilings and large windows to allow heat to rise above the living space and to facilitate a stream of breeze through the home’s interior. On the exterior, large porches and extensive roof overhangs offered additional protection from the summer sun along with greater access to a cooling breeze, with the home’s orientation often depending on the site’s predominant wind directions. The steep roof overhang also easily shed rain and allowed the windows to remain open during rainfall. Though pine and cypress were more common, metal roofs were used as well to reflect the sun’s energy away from the structure. In addition, crawl space, created by stacking coquina rocks, clay bricks or oyster shells, provided further ventilation and protection against potential flooding.

This traditional style represents an intimate understanding of the local environment. Modern cities often utilize vernacular architecture for its energy efficiency and historic value. Similarly, when adopted by entire towns, vernacular styles offer both diverse applications and aesthetic harmony. Vernacular Architecture is a key element of Groveland’s new Community Development Code.

The original “Cracker Homes” were rarely painted, but modern versions are often light in color in order to deflect heat. Furthermore, the use of authentic materials to imitate the “Florida Cracker” style is essential for the historic value and functionality of the structure. For example, the cypress wood traditionally used are notoriously termite- and rot-resistant, as referenced under Section 6.2 of Groveland’s updated Community Development Code.

Seaside, a New Urbanist town in northwest Florida, is well-known for its use of Florida Vernacular Architecture for residential and commercial buildings. The iconic front porches rather than front driveways not only supply a practical escape from the sun’s radiation, but also serve as a valuable transition between the public and private realm. These front porches encourage long conversations between residents, thus building a greater sense of community.

The photo gallery features historic and modern examples of Florida Vernacular Architecture. Thank you for joining this week’s Wednesday Workshop and we look forward to meeting again next week!

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