Cracker Style Revival

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, large-scale commercial agriculture, especially cattle-raising, grew in Florida. New settlers looking for work arrived from Georgia and came with few provisions. They needed to erect shelter swiftly and inexpensively. These cattle ranchers were nicknamed “Crackers” and their homes are known as the Cracker style. Why “Cracker?” Many of these early settlers were ranchers who used the “crack” of a whip to round up their cattle, this distinctive sound that became their trademark.

These cattle ranchers built their homes from native cedar and cypress trees. They used wood from cypress trees because of its natural durability, resistance to insects, decay, and other damaging elements. Light-weight cedar was used primarily for trim and cabinets to protect clothing from insects.

Before air conditioning, Florida homes were built with wide shady porches to provide relief from the relentless sun. Cracker homes were raised off of the ground to protect them from flooding during rainy season. Elevated cabins also kept air circulating in the residence during the hot summer months. Roofs where made with tin to reflect the sun and keep water out.

Presently, common-sense Cracker design elements have made a comeback. In 1990, the Florida Solar Energy Center and the Governor’s Energy Office held a statewide design competition to bring back the energy efficient Cracker-style homes of Florida. Since then, more and more homes have been built with large windows and wide verandas that shade walls and windows from the scorching rays of summer sun. Classic Cracker style is back, helping to keep Floridians cool and reducing their energy costs.

Archetectual rendering of a modern Cracker style home. Photo courtesy of Florida the Florida Archives.

Architectural rendering of a modern Cracker style home. Photo courtesy of Florida the Florida Archives.

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