Group Hopes 'Most Endangered' Nod Brings Money To Frank Lloyd Wright House

Jun 24, 2014

Spring House
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

A Tallahassee home built by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright has been named one of the country’s "most endangered" historic places. A local group welcomes the designation as it tries to raise money for the home’s renovation.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spring House is believed to be the only home the architect built in Florida. It’s also one of only a handful of its style—both reasons the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation gives for including Spring House on its annual “most endangered” sites list.

At an announcement ceremony Tuesday, granddaughter of the home’s original owners Olivia Posner said her grandmother, Clifton Lewis, created the Spring House Institute nearly 20 years ago with the goal of preserving the home.

"Spring House Institute sees the national attention garnered from this designation as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help Spring House move into the next stage of its historic career," she said. 

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website, almost all of the roughly 250 sites that have appeared on its list since the 1980s were eventually preserved.

Spring House Institute board member Mary Jo Spector says it's possible money will come from far beyond Tallahassee, though she declined to give any hints about possible donors. She says people across the country might have heard a story NPR ran about the National Trust list Tuesday. 

"In addition to that, TIME magazine, the online edition, featured us as the headliner for their article that was online this morning, so yes, we think this designation will garner a lot of national attention and hopefully contributions and donations as well," Spector says. 

The Spring House Institute aims to raise as much private money as possible by Halloween. That’s when its application is due for a state historic preservation matching grant.

Florida Department of State spokeswoman Brittany Lesser says the Institute could qualify for up to $350,000 worth of state funding, donated materials and volunteer hours. To receive that amount, the nonprofit group would need to raise $175,000 of its own. So far, the group has about $20,000 in the bank.

The group is getting the property appraised and hopes to buy it from the estate of original owners George and Clifton Lewis. It would then need to pay for renovations before opening the home as a cultural and event center. The total estimated cost of the project is unknown at this time.  

Board members said Tuesday the home will need new electrical and plumbing systems, but it's believed to be structurally sound overall.

The Lewis family commissioned the home from Wright in 1950, and it was complete four years later. The Lewises were known locally as civil rights activists during the 1960s and '70s. And Clifton Lewis was a founder of both the LeMoyne Center for Visual Arts and the Tallahassee Museum.