The Florida Cracker -- A Rural House Type

By Dan Gregory, Originally Published in Eye On Design

A four-square version of the early Southern Cracker house type, from a book by Ronald W. Haase.

One of the great American house types is the Florida Cracker. According to architect Ronald W. Haase, author of the excellent Classic Cracker: Florida’s Wood-Frame Vernacular Architecture, the term “cracker” originally referred to country folk in Southern Georgia who “cracked their corn to make meal.” For settlers of  northern Florida it also meant the crack of leather whips used to drive cattle and ultimately became identified with the unpretentious wood-frame houses that these individuals built. The Boyer house of 1878 at Tarpon Springs, (photo courtesy Heritage Village, Pinellas County) is a good early example.

A gable or hip-roofed structure that’s only one or two rooms deep with at least one porch, the Florida Cracker developed numerous variations, from porches on two sides, as show in a reconstruction at the Tallahassee Museum (photo courtesy Wikipedia); to a breezeway through the middle forming the classic “dogtrot” type, shown here (photo courtesy oldhouseweb.com); to Georgian four square hip-roof versions as illustrated by Haase in his book — note the front and back porches and the central hall connecting all four rooms (image courtesy Pineapple Press). As Haase points out, the Cracker is as expressive of a regional architecture as the New England saltbox or the Southwestern adobe ranch house.

 It’s also a very suggestive form to use as  a starting point for anyone thinking of designing or building a house because the components –  square room, porch, and shed, gable, or hip roof — are so straightforward, simple, and easy to combine in different ways. It’s almost like playing with blocks — as actress Diane Keaton points out in her recent book House.

August 26, 2013