Have you ever walked around in the historic district of St. Augustine and wondered what those strange window coverings are? You’ll find them on the Hyppo on St. George Street, on homes near the Oldest House, and even on some of the restaurants in the Colonial Quarter. They’re called rejas. They’re a Spanish architectural feature that serves both a decorative and particularly practical purpose.
If you thumb through an architectural dictionary, you’ll see a reja described as a metal (usually iron) covering, or grille, that is use to protect a chapel or a tomb within a church. Another more common manifestation, particularly in St. Augustine, is a wooden frame used to cover a window, almost in a similar fashion to a shutter.
Rejas would have typically been found on St. Augustine windows that faced the street. There were no sidewalks or front yards in colonial St. Augustine, so homes were flush with the street. The main entrance to a home was from the side rather than the front like we’re used to. Although rejas seem to serve a beautiful decorative purpose, they also served to protect the residents inside. Their windows didn’t have glass, so this in addition to inner shutters kept the outside world out and the inside world in. (While still allowing for some fresh air to come in an out.) St. Augustinians in the early years lived through many raid and siege attempts, so rejas served as an extra layer of protection from those who were not welcome in the residents’ homes.
If you’re interested in learning more about the common characteristics of St. Augustine’s architecture, we highly recommend giving this video a watch! Our board member and preservation architect Herschel Shepard gave a lecture for the St. Augustine Historical Society on St. Augustine’s heritage as a Spanish, British, and American town and the impact on our architecture styles. Enjoy!