Pioneer Life in Manatee County

Will Stephens Family Pioneer Home

Image Will Stephens Family Pioneer Home
Stephens House front 1

How did early Floridians survive the long summers without fans or air-conditioning?  They built their homes to take advantage of shade, insulation and air circulation.  This "Cracker Gothic" style settler's home shows off several of these techniques.  The home is an excellent example of rural frame dwellings built in Florida between 1870 and World War I.


These special features helped to keep the house cool without air conditioning:

  • The heart pine blocks elevate the house 2½ 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.
  • The home is also shaded by large, live oak trees.

The Will Stephens family built this home in 1912 from pine trees on the family homestead, established in 1894 in what is now Hardee County.  (Manatee County used to be very large!  It measured 5,000 square miles and used to include what are now the counties of Manatee, Hardee, Highlands, Sarasota, DeSoto, Charlotte and Glades.)


In 1982 the home was cut into five parts, moved to Manatee Village Historical Park, and was restored by volunteer labor.  The flooring is original.  The fireplace is made of the original bricks.  The home's exterior is painted rather than whitewashed.  You can actually walk through it today, and see how area pioneers used to live 100 years ago.


To learn more about the daily life of the Stephens family and pioneer life in Manatee County you can read, "Bee Trees and Berry Picking" from Stephens Ancestors and Pioneer Relatives by Clyde S. Stephens.