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Last Update 05/21/11
I Love the Smell of a New Chickee
 

According to The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s website, “chickee” is the word Seminole Indians use for “house”. “The chickee style of architecture - palmetto thatch over a cypress log frame - was born during the early 1800s when Seminole Indians, pursued by U.S. troops, needed fast, disposable shelter while on the run.”

Today the chickee is not often used as housing although it is possible to see traditional chickee huts in many parts of South Florida often because they are used as centerpieces in Florida outdoor living.

Chickee Hut

 

If you want your own entertainment chickee, call a Seminole or Miccosukee Indian. First, because Florida state building codes do not require members of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida or the Seminole Tribe of Florida to be licensed contractors to build chickees (but, State Statute does not exempt the chickee from meeting local code of ordinance requirements). And second, because you would probably find it difficult to find someone who has the years of experience to build it properly as do the Miccosukee and Seminole who are practicing an indigenous art form passed down from generation to generation.

553.73  Florida Building Code.

(8)(i)  Chickees constructed by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida or the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As used in this paragraph, the term "chickee" means an open-sided wooden hut that has a thatched roof of palm or palmetto or other traditional materials, and that does not incorporate any electrical, plumbing, or other nonwood features.

 

Chickee Hut, long side view.

Fronds from palm species used in Florida for chickee roofs are Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), Cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), Keys Thatch Palm (IB), Florida Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiate), Royal palm (Roystonea spp.), and Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) woven together by vines or thin ropes. A well-built chickee structure can be last about ten years but usually needs to be re-thatched every five years.

Chickee Ceiling

Detail of Chickee Ceiling Weave Chickee Wall Detail

Traditionally the wood used to construct the chickee frame was made from cypress logs, but today cypress is a protected tree so pressure treated pine wood is typically used.

The chickee pictured here is a new construction at Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach, Florida. Side note – if you ever have an opportunity to visit a newly built chickee, because of the dried palm fronds, the structure smells great – like a huge woven reed basket!

Source: A Technical Guide for Kids: How to Build a Chickee, Kiara Winans & Crawford Solomon, 2006

 

 

 
 

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