BUILDING A DAY: October 17, 2014
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Photos: Alan Spector and Stuart Rochford
?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. After 18 months, 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.?
— Spring House History Spring House Institute
Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home for George Lewis II, President of the Lewis State Bank, and his wife Clifton in 1952 and it was constructed in 1954 after difficulty finding a local builder who could build the unique design. Wright sent Nils Schweizer, Wright’s representative at Florida Southern College, to find a qualified local contractor to take the project on. Jack Culpepper of Culpepper Construction agreed to build the house and Ernest Daffin, a local architect, served as construction supervisor. Schweizer drove from Lakeland every week to supervise and plan the construction.
Spring House is the only built private residence designed by Wright in the state of Florida and the hemicycle form characterized by both concentric and intersecting circles represents a late, and little known stage in Wright’s career. There are approximately 400 remaining Wright-designed houses throughout the United States but very few were designed in the hemicycle series. Spring House was recognized as a significant structure and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 when it was only 25 years old. It was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation 11 Most Endangered List of Historic Places in 2014.
J. Rodney Little, Historic Preservation Officer with the Florida Division of Archives, described the house in his original 1979 application:
?The Lewis house exhibits many of the characteristics consistent in Wright’s designs. Horizontal lines are emphasized both in the overall composition and in the treatment of surface materials. The circular forms of the plan are echoed in the elevations in the treatment of some windows and fixtures. Surface interest is derived from normally treated and strongly contrasted structural materials.
The house sits on a poured concrete slab with subterranean pilings; red pigment was mixed with the concrete and the smoothly finished slab is exposed as the surface for the first floor. The walls of the first story and the entire height of the utilities core are constructed of ?Ocala? concrete block with deeply raked horizontal joints. The unpainted block is exposed on both interior and exterior surfaces. Almost the entire expanse of the arc on the east side of the house is composed of wood-framed, fixed-plate glass, which rises from the first floor to the two-story ceiling.?
Spring House Institute was launched in 1996 to preserve and protect the house and has launched a capital campaign to purchase and restore the house to its original grandeur. More information on this important campaign can be located at: www.preservespringhouse.org.
The Center for Architecture Sarasota looks forward to hosting Kevin Schweizer, Nils Schweizer’s son and lead architect for the preservation efforts, at a lecture and presentation on the project. Please check our website in November for details.