While attending the 1950 World Federalist Conference at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL, George and Clifton Lewis asked Mr. Wright to design a home for them, saying they "have a lot of children and not much money". He agreed and instructed them to "Go find your ground, not on a lot." In less than two years, the Lewises located a beautiful five acre parcel in Leon County on the outskirts of Tallahassee, with a natural spring that flows from the property to Lake Jackson.
Mr. Wright completed the plans in 1952, of an unconventional pod-shaped house (one of only two, as designated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) and also described as a passive solar "hemicycle" (by William A. Storrer) made it difficult to find a builder willing to commit to a price to build it. In 1954, Nils Schweizer, Mr. Wright's representative at the Florida Southern College site, was sent by Mr. Wright to find a qualified local contractor. With the help of Ernest Daffin, a local architect and Lewis family friend who worked for Jack Culpepper Contractor, Mr. Culpepper agreed to undertake the project, as Clifton recalls, "to build a livable house for an agreed-on price." Ground was broken in April 1954; Mr. Daffin served as construction supervisor, and Mr. Schweizer as Mr. Wright¹s liaison. Clifton says, "Jack set up a mill on site, and his talented crew went to work. Mr. Schweizer drove up from Lakeland at the end of every week and worked with the construction workers, and planned the following week's work." Local building codes and site conditions required modifications along the way, including a much larger foundation than originally planned. Due to additional costs, some of the exterior features of the original plan were not completed, among them a terrace wall and a reflecting pool.
By the end of December 1954, construction was completed and the Lewis Family moved into their new home before the New Year. Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959 never having visited the property. The Lewises raised their four children in Spring House and received many prominent local, state, national, and international figures, including politicians, former Florida governor Farris Bryant and presidential candidate Norman Thomas; architects Richard Neutra, Leonardo Ricci, Fey Jones, Alfred Browning Parker, and Maria Gratsia Delebra; landscape architect Dan Kylie; attorneys Thomas M. Schmidt and Murray Sams; writers Robert G. Sherrill, Ann Waldron, and Jack and Ann Rudloe; artists Artemis Skevakis, Nancy Reid Gunn, William Watson, George Milton, Cynthia Nunez, and Geoffrey Lardiere; photographers Evon Streetman and Alan Weintraub; pediatrician and writer Dr. Benjamin Spock; statesman Glen Olds; civil rights activists Patricia and John Due; reporter Martin Waldron; film director Victor Nunez; NPR broadcast journalist Susan Stamberg; and many others.
Spring House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places February 14, 1979. George Lewis passed away in April 1996. Clifton and others formed the Spring House Institute, Inc., and charged it with the tasks of preserving this historic property and bringing it into beneficial public and private uses. The Lewis family moved out of Spring House at the end of 2010 for SHI to be able to use the house as we are now.
Clifton passed away in February 2014, but before she died, she first had the exciting and gratifying experience of seeing how many people were contributing towards her and George's dreams for Spring House to be realized. Her family hopes, with the help of the public, for Spring House Institute, Inc., to acquire, restore and complete the only built private residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Florida, and transform it from the Lewis family's personal home to a public legacy.
DO THE WRIGHT THING !
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