homes on the homestead

When Florida was purchased from Spain in 1821, many settlers from Georgia and the Carolinas migrated south. The earliest of the Cracker houses date back to this time; however, they were most prevalent from the 1840s through the 1920s.

Many Cracker house design elements have been preserved and are part of houses being built today. These unique features include:

1. Cracker houses used wood frame construction. Pine and cypress were the most popular options but availability was usually the main factor when choosing the wood. Cypress was much sought after due to its anti-termite and water resistance characteristics. Cedar and red cedar were also used once railroads improved shipping options.

2. Houses were raised off the ground for ventilation and to keep the floors dry.

3. In Florida, ventilation was key. Cracker houses featured the “dog trot,” a hallway from the front to the rear of the house and open at both ends.

4. Cracker houses often had multiple separate structures, such as an outside kitchen, outhouse, corn crib and smokehouse. Other structures might include a cane grinder and syrup boiling kettle, a primitive barn, a well and a tool shed.

5. Most cracker houses had metal roofing and a front porch that would often wrap around part or all of the house.

These houses came in different sizes and comfort levels, depending on whether they were owned by a cowhunter, a farmer, a field hand, a sharecropper, or a cattle / citrus baron. For photos, please visit the Florida Memory Project.

(Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida/Holland)