Treasuring Our Past, Preserving Our Future

It was a muggy, summer evening in Tallahassee, a day situated after the conclusion of finals and before the arrival of the “free drinks before midnight” Summer C crowd. The streets were almost empty and the brick buildings stood silent against the humid, languishing days.

The Spring House is the only preserved Frank Lloyd Wright house in Florida.

The Spring House is the only preserved Frank Lloyd Wright house in Florida.

On this particular evening, my neighbors, Kim and Ryan, and myself sat in the driveway drinking almost cold PBRs while spitballing some potential plans for the evening. AJ’s, a movie and night swimming were all possibilities, but it was decided that we craved something new—something out of the ordinary. A spark of an idea flashed across Kim’s face and she began to tell us about this old abandoned house on the North Side of town. It had been sitting vacant for years and was apparently designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

After doing a quick drive by, we parked at the 24-Hour Wal-Mart and walked back to the house, keeping a low profile by cutting through the residential streets. As we approached the house, it began to look a lot scarier and a lot more illegal. “No Trespassing” signs were posted on crooked trees, a rusty chain was half-heartedly strung across the driveway and a few windows were boarded up with splintered plywood. We soldiered on, stepped over the tired barricade and walked up to the front of the house.

Blueprints for the House.

Blueprints for the House.

In the dark, it was hard to fully grasp the complete beauty and unique architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spring House. Even in the spotty light of the moon and an absence of any architectural knowledge, we could see that this house was something special. It appeared to be a landlocked ship, long and oval shaped, its second story divided from the first by a wrap around wooden balcony making the house seem to have a deck and hull. We each wandered around the front of the house, flashlights in hand. Beams of dim yellow light bounced off the dilapidated storage shed, down the patio stairs and penetrated the kitchen windows to reveal a circular kitchen that opened into a wide living area.

It was mutually agreed that we needed to get inside. Suddenly graced with courage, adrenaline and help from wine, I tugged on the frame of the kitchen window and it opened so easily it is as if the house wanted us to come in and fill its walls with sound once again.

The home was stunning—exposed wood beams, smooth concrete floors, an old floor to ceiling fireplace and huge plate glass windows that looked onto the forest behind the home. The upstairs was comprised of simple bedrooms, square, casement windows and narrow doorways. The kitchen was circular and narrow, with high ceilings and tall, wooden cabinets. On the far side of the living room were three pianos, their keys caked with dust. The built in living room benches—covered with a faded, white sheet—eerily resembled haunted house décor.

Each space flowed into the next and was complimented by smooth, natural lines of raw material, which Wright was known for. It was easy to imagine a family living here, kissed by the early morning light that poured in from the floor to ceiling windows. I can imagine Christmas parties, someone at the piano playing for the guests seated around the fireplace. I didn’t know why someone would leave this house to fall apart.

Even barren, dusty and dark, this house whispered warmth and simplicity, but it lacks the final piece needed to make it complete—people. With one final look, we said goodbye to the home and exited the way we entered, leaving no trace of disturbance in our wake.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 structures in his lifetime.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 structures in his lifetime.

Years later, at the Crawfish Festival perusing some local vendor booths, I walked by the Spring House Institute booth. Next to the table was a photo of the house I explored that sleepy summer night. The volunteers explained that Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most famous American Architects and entrepreneur of modern architecture, designed this home for the Lewis family, making it the only private residence that Wright designed in Florida. With volunteered time and donations, the Spring House Institute is in the process of acquiring, restoring, and preserving this remarkable home.

The institute raised over half of the funds for the campaign to acquire and restore the Spring House. Unfortunately, they fell short of their goal by the October 31 deadline. However, the Spring House Institute continues to campaign for the necessary funds. Tours of this historic home take place on the second Sunday of each month and are open to the public from 2pm to 4pm for only $15.00. If you wish to learn more about the campaign, volunteer your time or drop by for a tour, please visit www.preservespringhouse.org or drop by the booth at Railroad Square on December 5.

Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Noble life demands a noble architecture for noble uses of noble men. Lack of culture means what it has always meant: ignoble civilization and therefore imminent downfall.” Here in our own town of Tallahassee sits a piece of art and culture, begging to be acknowledged and appreciated. Let us not forget the importance of beauty and the preservation of history that artists such as Frank Lloyd Wright created.

by ABIGAIL SCOTT / contributing writer

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