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Construction at the Council House

If you visit the historic site right now you will notice that the walls/roof of the Apalachee Council House look different! To maintain the reconstructed building it needed to be temporarily de-thatched.

What is “de-thatching?” De-thatching is the process of removing the many layers of palm fronds that cover the wooden frame of the Council House and act as shingles. Palm fronds are bio-degradable and break down over time so periodically need to be replaced. If left on too long the supporting structure can break down too.

How was this done in the 17th century? Just like we do today, in the 1600s the Apalachee community repaired and maintained the Council House’s palm-frond walls. They either patched the palm fronds in sections as needed, or replaced the entire palm-thatched covering at once, like we are planning to do. However they maintained the thatch, they would have regularly made repairs to this important building. Imagine the pride they felt in keeping the central structure of their village in good condition!

What about the re-thatching? We plan to re-thatch the Council House with natural-looking synthetic thatch when funding is secured. This type of thatch is much more wind and fire resistant, and is longer lasting than natural thatch. It is what is installed on our reconstructed Franciscan Church. Be sure to check out our website or social media for updates to our progress!

You can still explore this impressive Apalachee structure virtually in the links below!

 

Mission San Luis Resources

•  The Apalachee and the Council House - Interpretive video tour by our living history guide

•  Archaeology of the Council House - Video tour with our Senior Archaeologist, Jerry Lee  

•  Palm Thatch Places: Apalachee Architecture - A Summer Camp Quest video with lesson and craft 

•  Reconstructing Mission San Luis: The Council House - Overview information

•  Council House De-thatching / Re-Thatching Time-Lapse - Video from the 2013 re-thatching

Additional Resources

•  Timucua Building Technology By Florida Archaeology Network

•  Thatching - First Colony: Our Spanish Origins - Video on thatching by Florida Museum of Natural History

 


 Did You Know...?

  • Native peoples in the Southeast built various types of council/meeting houses for hundreds of years, including before the arrival of Europeans.
  • Similar buildings around the Southeast were said to hold up to 3,000 people.
  • This building is reconstructed based on archaeological evidence and is in the same location the original burned down in 1704.
  • Our Council House is about 120 feet in diameter and 50 feet high and approximately 90,000 palm fronds were used to cover the structure in thatch in 2013.
  • Apalachee women and men could have worked together in maintaining the Council House. Women might have helped with the preparation of palm fronds as well as rope for lifting logs and tying beams together.

 

 

Fun with Geometry

If you study the engineering of the Apalachee Council House you will see that although it looks like a circle from above, the perimeter (outside edge) is made up of many straight lines. Notice in the diagrams below that the greater the number of straight sides a shape has the more it looks like a circle!

How many side segments do you count at the bottom of the Council House? 
How many are at the top at the oculus (opening)? Why is the number different?

(Note that some logs span two segments between angled upright timbers, with some "bent" by cutting a a notch in the wood!)