How did early Florida settlers survive the long summers without fans or air conditioning? They built heir homes to take advantage of shade, insulation, and air circulation. This “Cracker Gothic” style settler’s home shows off several of these techniques. The heart pine blocks elevate the house 2-1/2 feet off the ground to allow air flow under the house. The large front porch shades and cools the breeze before it enters the house. The large central hallway with a high ceiling funnels the cooled air through the house. The house is divided into separate rooms that can be opened or closed according to the needs of the family and the seasons of the year.
Here in the museum, the home is shaded by live oak trees.
The Will Stephens family built this home in 1912 from pine trees on the family homestead. Their homestead was established in 1894 in what is now Hardee County. The home is an excellent example of rural frame dwellings in Florida between 1870 and World War I.
When the homestead property was purchased for mining, the Stephens House became the property of the International Mineral Corporation. The company later donated the house to the Manatee County Historical Commission. It was cut into five parts and moved here in 1982.
As with most of the museum structures, the Stephens House was restored by volunteer labor and funds contributed by Historical Commission members, individuals, organizations, and foundations.
The flooring throughout the home is original. The fireplace is made of the original bricks. The furnishings are not the ones used by the family but were in popular use at the time.
The home’s exterior is painted rather than whitewashed. When they built the house, the Stephens family decided it would receive the best white paint that money could buy.
Stephens House, 2022
Stephens House Kitchen, by Eric Hilton, 2023
Stephens House South Porch, by Eric Hilton, 2023