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.