In 1958 my family moved into a house in Tallahassee’s woodlands neighborhood, near Old Fort Park. Designed by my mother, Ragna Pepper. It was a long, low, large, light-filled house, with sliding glass doors leading onto a central patio, visible from all major living spaces.
Over the years I came to understand how my mother had been influenced by the design theories of Frank Lloyd Wright, as transmitted through popular magazines: her open floor plan; built-in furniture; flat roof; large expanses of glass to bring nature (and landscaping) inside; and sturdy, natural and local materials. Having lived in my mother’s mid-century modern home and been friends with the Lewis family for over 50 years, I appreciate the esthetic of clean, bold lines and minimal intrusion into the surrounding environment.
I don’t remember how I first came to be at Spring House. It may have had something to do with my father, Leonard Pepper, and their mutual interest in civil rights; or my mother’s sister Kristen Skagfield, the Coco Chanel of Tallahassee, who made dresses for Clifton to wear in New York with George. Most likely, it had to do with second son William Van Brunt Lewis (Van), who was in my grade. My route walking home from Sealey School took me past their old house in Los Robles, and I would follow Van and watch him whenever possible. As seniors in high school, he escorted me in the May Party.
All the Lewis children were attractive to me. As a Leon High School sophomore, I admired senior sweethearts George Edward Lewis and Mary Ann Giles, whose
subsequent marriage lasted for 50 years, until Mary Ann’s death in 2013. My aunt Kristin made dresses for Byrd Lewis, as well as her mother. I was a little
jealous of Byrd’s vivacity and fashionable popularity. The youngest Lewis son
Benjamin Bridges and I are devoted parents to our wonderful daughter Olivia, who is also a member of the SHI board.
Whatever the occasion of my first visit to Spring House, many others followed: informal suppers, sing-alongs, tea parties, political action planning meetings, recitals, so many intense and enjoyable events. Activities of daily living in a work of art such as Spring House take on a meditative quality. The beauty and integrity of the house and its setting lift our spirits and make us want to do
I am very proud and happy to be serving on the board of Spring House Institute, to help realize Clifton's vision of Spring House as the center of a community
promoting the arts, the environment, and world peace.
There’s a Wright house in Tallahassee? I first learned of Spring House some eighteen years ago when entering into Architecture school at FAMU. Architecturally speaking, I was pretty green at the time and really didn’t know what a “Wright house” should look like. I would later visit a number of his buildings, but at the time, other than slides that were shown in first year Architecture classes, I didn’t know what to look for or what would distinguish a Wright house from any other, nor could I get a straight answer as to its location.
Word was that it sat on a hill top above the banks of Lake Jackson north of town. Mr. Wright adamantly did not build on “hill tops” I would later
learn. “If you build on top of the hill, you lose the hill” he once said.
It just happened that I spent some time at the lake with friends during
the summer and one day I saw it. A beautiful house on a hill supported by massive white columns surrounded by what else but majestic oaks. That must
be it! At least that is how I remember it. I may have been mistaken.
When I finally saw the REAL Spring House for the first time, there was no mistake. No mistake, no question, “…there”. I could barely see the bow through the natural landscape but with no doubt – “that is it”.
There is something about a building in which the author has poured himself into every detail. It’s like he is there somewhere. It has a soul. The soul of the family that has lived there…the soul of the master who put it to paper.
My name is Seth Keys Coffin. I am an architect here in Tallahassee Florida and I am privileged to serve as a board member of the Spring House Institute and hopefully impress upon you through these blogs, the importance of our mission.
This represents our first blog so we thought it wise to make proper introductions.
There is an overwhelming spirit that lives within Spring House. And thank you to the Lewis family for allowing it to be an experience that we ALL can
Continue to visit our blog and please join us - become a FOSH!
(Friend of Spring House)