Tallahassee’s Clifton and George Lewis II, crossed paths with Frank Lloyd Wright in 1950 at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The world-renowned architect was there for the dedication of one of his “Child of the Sun” buildings, and the Lewis’ were there for a World Federalist Conference. The Lewis’ met Mr. Wright at a reception, and Clifton –not being shy and encouraged by George – asked him to design a house for them. Wright replied, “Find your ground… not on a lot … and get in touch.”
In 1952, the Lewis’ found their ground – a beautiful five acre parcel on the outskirts of Tallahassee, with a natural spring that often flows from the property to Lake Jackson. They sent Mr. Wright a topographical map of the property, and provided him with information about their life in Tallahassee. The great architect incorporated a nautical theme into the design, perhaps derived from what he learned about George’s love of boats (he built a sailboat named the
“Clifton”) and the family’s fondness for the Gulf coast and offshore islands. He completed the plans in 1952.
From their home at Spring House, the Lewis’ supported civil rights in Tallahassee in the ’50s and ’60s, promoted cultural and civic life in Tallahassee. Clifton and others started the Junior Museum with a tiny collection in one room. It grew to the present-day 52-acre Tallahassee Museum. Clifton was also a founder of LeMoyne Center for Visual Arts, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2014. Clifton often attended and spoke at meetings of the city and county commissions, as well assemblies of Florida’s Governor and Cabinet. The Lewis’ loved sharing their home as their four children grew up and after, and many national and international visitors enjoyed Spring House with them over the 52 years that they lived in their unique “home with a soul.”
After George Lewis’ death in 1996, Clifton and others formed Spring House Institute, Inc (SHI), a 501(c)(3) tax exempt not-for-profit organization, intending that SHI would buy the house for the home of Spring House Institute, serve as a conference center and host classes, musical events, poetry readings, community meetings, seminars, and other activities associated with the arts, the environment, science and social justice. Spring House is open every 2nd Sunday for public tours from 2 to 4 pm, $15 a person, children 12 and under are free. There is a regular work day every 4th Saturday from 9 to noon in the Spring and Summer and 1 to 4 pm in the Fall and Winter. Check PreserveSpringHouse.org for 4th Saturday seasonal change in time. Help preserve this important home for generations of public use!