Cooking for the plantation owner and his family was done in a separate building because of heat, noise, smells, and the danger of a fire. The kitchen was a meeting point between African and European cultures. Slave cooks prepared foods traditionally, altering recipes passed down from African ancestors and mixing in local ingredients and new recipes from the owner’s family. After slave cooks prepared meals they carried them to the owner’s house to be served. Water was brought from the well or the cistern near this building. The latticed walkway was added in the 1870s.
Waterfront and Plantation Owner’s Home
*The front of the plantation owner’s house faces the Fort George River. Most plantations were located along waterways because transportation by ship or boat was the easiest way to get crops to market or to bring in supplies. The plantation house dates to 1798 and is the oldest plantation house still standing in the state of Florida. It was built for comfort, with four corner rooms and the central two-story section. The stairs to the second floor were located outside on the back porch. The house was designed so that windows on all sides of the rooms would allow breezes to cross-ventilate. Unusual features of the house include the full cellar and the widow’s walk on top of the house. *
**The Kingsley Family **
Zephaniah Kingsley relocated to Spanish Florida in 1803 and became a successful merchant and planter. His African wife, Anta Madgigine Jai, was from Senegal. Kingsley purchased her as a slave in Havana, Cuba in 1806. He freed Anna (as she became known) and their children in 1811. In 1814 he moved his family to Fort George Island. Anna took advantage of Spanish views on race and society, which enabled her to own her own plantation and slaves. She also was her husband’s business partner.
When Spain lost control of Florida in 1821, legislators in the new United States Territory quickly enacted laws that greatly reduced the civil liberties of free blacks, such as Kingsley’s family members. Kingsley addressed Florida’s Legislative Council and wrote numerous pamphlets on the importance of maintaining a free black population in Florida.
His campaign to keep a system of society where people were judged by class, and not be color, was largely ignored. By 1832 the harsh laws restricting the rights of all “persons of color” became intolerable. Faced with the reality of his family losing their freedom upon his death, he began looking for a country where they could live without restrictions.
By 1837, Kingsley moved Anna, their two sons, and 50 of his now freed slaves to Haiti, a free black republic. Their two daughters remained in Jacksonville, married to wealthy white men. Zephaniah Kingsley died in 1843 knowing that his family was secure.
*The Kingsley story is a window into a period of sweeping change in Florida’s history. The new territorial laws forced free and enslaved people to adapt to reforms in which some gained, but many lost, personal liberties. *
If you are a history buff, you definitely want to visit Kinglsey Plantation. The Kingsley family occupied the property for 25 years between 1814 and 1837, and their residency is still preserved today. The plantation grounds are opened year-round, with the exception of major holidays. For more information visit: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/kp.htm
Article and photographs by Ennis Davis, AICP. Photograph captions courtesy of the National Park Service. Contact Ennis at email@example.com