Southeastern Houses

The chickee comes from the Seminole word for “house." The first Seminoles to live in North Florida are known to have constructed log cabin-type homes, some two stories tall, with sleeping quarters upstairs; the chickee style of architecture was developed during the early 1800s when Seminole Indians needed fast, disposable shelter while on the run. Chickees (also known as chickee huts, stilt houses, or platform dwellings) are Native American homes used primarily in Florida by tribes like the Seminole Indians. The chickee was constructed with cypress logs and palmetto palm thatch leaves woven together by vines or thin ropes.

The Seminole Indians lived in chickees because of the swampy conditions that existed in the Everglades of Florida where many lived. Chickee houses consisted of large diameter posts supporting a roof and a flat wooden platform raised 3 or 4 feet above the ground. Walls were not necessary in a tropical climate where it never gets cold. However, during rainstorms, occupants would lash tarps made of hide or cloth to the chickee frame to keep themselves dry. To shed heavy rains, the chickee was constructed with a steep thick thatched roof. After time, the Seminoles perfected their housing by adding another level, making them two stories high with living quarters for those more fortunate. Although the Seminole built their homes on higher ground in the swampland, the long posts kept the house from sinking into marshy earth; raising the floor of the hut off the ground kept swamp animals like snakes out of the house. A ladder was used for climbing up to the floor. Fires were built outside the house—usually in a separate cooking building.

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