The Historical Dendroarchaeology of the Ximénez-Fatio House, St. Augustine, Florida, U.S.A

Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, Leda N. Kobziar, Grant L. Harley, Kevin P. Russell, Lisa B. LaForest, Joseph K. Oppermann
2010 Tree-Ring Research  
4 In recent decades, agencies charged with managing historic structures and sites have 5 found dendroarchaeological studies increasingly valuable, given the ability of such studies to 6 verify (or refute) accepted dates of construction. The Ximénez-Fatio House has historical and 7 cultural significance for the state of Florida, as it is one of St. Augustine's oldest, best-preserved, 8 and most studied historic properties. The main house was reportedly built around 1797-1798, 9 and included a
more » ... 9 and included a one-story wing (giving the house a distinctive "L" shape), while a 2nd story was 10 added above the wing sometime during 1830-1842. However, historical architects believe the 11 entire wing of the house was constructed in the 1850s. Our goals were to: (1) determine the 12 probable construction year for the original structure using tree-ring dating techniques, and (2) 13 verify the probable construction year for the renovation that occurred in the wing section of the 14 house. A total of 74 core samples were extracted from longleaf pine (Pinus palustris P. Miller) 15 timbers used to construct the house, 26 of which were used to build a floating tree-ring 16 chronology 185 years in length from series that were confidently crossdated both visually and 17 statistically against each other. A statistically significant (p < 0.0001) correlation between our 18 chronology and a longleaf pine chronology from Lake Louise, Georgia anchors our chronology 19 between 1673 and 1857. No cutting dates were found for the main house, but the lack of any tree 20 rings that date post-1798 supports the 1797 construction date. Furthermore, cutting dates 21 obtained from beams in the first floor wing revealed that the entire wing was likely built in the 22 period 1856 to 1858 soon after the house had been purchased by Luisa Fatio in1855. 23 24 Keywords: dendroarchaeology, dendrochronology, tree rings, Ximénez-Fatio House, St. 25 Augustine, Florida, Luisa Fatio 26 27 occupied European community in the continental United States. Given its extensive history, St. 31 Augustine is a city of particular archaeological (Deagan 1985) and anthropological (Manucy 32 1985) interest. Situated in the heart of the city's oldest community is the Ximénez-Fatio House 33 (Figure 1), at the corner of Avilés and Cadiz Streets (Figure 2). The Ximénez-Fatio House is one 34 of the oldest standing structures in St. Augustine. It is not only the age, however, that makes 35 this a structure of special interest, but also the excellent condition and state of preservation in 36 which the house exists today. Contrary to other historic structures in the area, much of the 37 original materials (e.g., wood beams, lintels, rafters, and joists) used to construct the house 38 remain unchanged. The condition of the original structural materials makes the house an 39 excellent candidate for dendrochronological analysis. 40 Many believe the original house was constructed around 1797-1798 and major structural 41 renovations were conducted between 1830 and 1842. Sometime during this latter period, 42 architectural historians believe a second story was added above the original wing located 43 adjacent to Cadiz Street (Waterbury 1985). Tree-ring analysis could provide supporting 44 evidence regarding the construction of the original structure and subsequent renovations. The 45 objectives of this study were to: (1) collect a comprehensive set of cores from both floors of the 46 main house and the wing; (2) crossdate the tree rings from these cores against a regional master on when the house was constructed (i.e. a terminus post quem, or the earliest year of 51 construction). Because the house is made largely from squared timbers, the outermost ring that 52 would provide the cutting dates of harvested trees likely will not be preserved, but we hope the 53 range of years in the tree rings from these cores will lend support for both the initial 54 construction date and the dates of renovations. 55 56 Dendroarchaeological Research in the Southeastern U.S. 57 Dendroarchaeological research on historic sites has increased in recent decades 58 (Grissino-Mayer 2009). Bowers and Grashot (1976) attempted to analyze the construction period 59 of President Andrew Jackson's First Hermitage plantation, but were unable to develop cutting 60 dates for the logs used to build the structures. Stahle (1979) standardized dendroarchaeological 61 methods and techniques used in the southeastern United States by successfully dating 24 62 historic log and frame buildings throughout Arkansas, as well as improving and extending 63 existing modern tree-ring chronologies for the state. Mann (2002) was the first study to combine 64 dendrochronological (tree-ring dating of timbers) and archaeological (dating of artifacts 65 recovered during excavations) principles to accurately date a historic structure in eastern 66 Tennessee. Such complementary studies are becoming desirable because many agencies 67 charged with managing historic sites wish to authenticate the construction date(s) of these 68 structures using as many lines of evidence as possible (Grissino-Mayer 2009). 69
doi:10.3959/2009-8.1 fatcat:xexiqykiovb3jfv2mghdwp57v4