Thursday, July 3, 2014

Red Hills Ramble

Spring House, interior. Tallahassee, Florida. Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. 1954. Despite the house's provenance, architectural stature and landmark designation, Spring House has landed on the National Trust's 2014 Most Endangered List, somehow avoiding a much needed restoration that will insure its continued existence.
Red Hills Ramble
By Augustus Mayhew

However remote and disconnected Northwest Florida's oak-canopied rolling hills and pine forest skylines might appear from the East and West Coast's up-to-the-nanosecond edge, I spent the last week deciphering how the state capital's local scene is responding to the challenges of staying relevant in today's volatile 21st century.

Spring House. National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2014 list of 11 Most Endangered National Historic Places. The list includes the Palisades along the Hudson River at Englewood Cliffs, where the LG Corporation plans to build an office tower, and Cincinnati's monumental Union Terminal, an Art Deco landmark.
Tallahassee is home to Florida's only Frank Lloyd Wright house, placed last week on The National Trust's 2014 Endangered List.

Phipps Jewelry is rethinking tradition, turning the past into must-have Chic Verte gems. However much Pulitzer Prize author Robert Olen Butler is at home in an antebellum farmhouse near Monticello, the prolific story teller is packing for Vienna's International Short Story Conference before landing in Shanghai where one of his award-winning works is being published in Chinese.

Located across from the present Governor's Mansion, the 1840 Call-Collins House at The Grove was home to two Florida governors, now set to open in November after five years of restoration. Underworld and avant-garde are words not usually associated with Florida State University. That is, until the acquisition of author William Burroughs' voluminous collection of papers, manuscripts, letters and cut-ups was accessioned by the university's Strozier Library Special Collections, joining the archives' extensive Grove Press collection.

Here are few glimpses from my wander off the beaten track.

A Wright at the End of the Road:
Spring House at Okeeheepkee Road — Tallahassee

In 1950, George and Clifton Lewis met Frank Lloyd Wright at a conference being held at Lakeland's Florida Southern College. Having appreciated Wright's work at the college, they asked Wright directly to design a house for them in Tallahassee. He agreed and told them to find an appropriate site.
Spring House was sited deep in the woods, located at the end of Okeeheepkee Road identified only by a "Private Property – Do Not Enter" sign posted at the entrance to the rutted gravel driveway.
Completed in December 1954 at a cost of $42,000, Spring House was one of Wright's rare solar hemicycle designs that were part of the late stage of his career. While the Florida Southern College campus is composed of 12 Wright-designed buildings, the Tallahassee project was his only residential design in Florida. Thus, even more reason there should be a concerted effort to save the house from demolition. And while the State of Florida is surely contemplating a museum for bulldozers, after nearly twenty years the Spring House Institute has only raised $20,000 toward the cost of preserving the severely deteriorated landmark and acquiring the property from the estate of Clifton Lewis who died in February 2014.
As the driveway approaches from the west, a clearing opens onto this late morning view of Spring House, built facing southeast on a slight southerly slope sheltered by moss-limbed oaks. Tarps are placed over the entrance and the stairwell structures.
The curvilinear section of the house features upstairs bedrooms with wood trim and square windows and a lower level living area faced with natural bricks, fitted with semi-circular porthole windows.
At the front entrance, featuring a sequence of distressed elements, a circular tower houses the kitchen on the lower level.
George E. Lewis II. Lewis' parents George and Clifton Lewis built Spring House. He and his sister Byrd Lewis Mashburn grew up at the house.
Byrd Lewis Mashburn, daughter of the original owners and president of the Spring House Institute.
Spring House, Mission Statement.
Spring House, south point. Not as shipshape as it was 60 years ago when it was built, Spring House is only one of less than ten Wright designed in the late stage of his life utilizing the solar hemicycle design.
Spring House, north point sweeping to the southwest with a mix of rectilinear and curved features.
East elevation. A sweeping arch above the rectilinear glass partitions.
I arrived as board members and supporters were setting up for a 10 am press conference. The focus was Spring House's endangered status and sending out an SOS for funds to acquire the property from Clifton Lewis' estate.
As you step down into the open two-story living-entertainment are, the kitchen is to the right facing northwest.
The kitchen and kitchen windows appear to have structural and cosmetic concerns.
The ground floor living area, looking north toward the front door and staircase leading to the bedrooms.
The living area's built-in sofa and fireplace.
Living area windows, detail.
Upper level hall enclosure atop the fireplace.
The staircase.
From the upper level hall leading to the row of bedrooms.
Second-level fireplace.
A view to the northeast from the upstairs open hall.
Spring House, view from the upper level balcony looking southwest.
The press and local arts leaders begin to gather for the press conference.
Olivia Posner, a granddaughter of the original owners.
Priscilla Stephens Kruize. An early civil rights leader, Kruize was designated a "Living Legend" in 2000 by Florida A&M University. In 1960, she spent 49 days in jail for staging a sit-in at a local Tallahassee Woolworth's lunch counter; Top: Audra Pittman, director of the Council on Culture & Arts, and David Campbell, president of the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts.

Above: Seth Coffin, a Tallahassee architect and board member of Spring House.
Architect and Spring House board member Mary Jo Spector addresses the media and community leaders attending the press conference.
Spring House. I came back to the house after everyone left. The local Tallahassee Democrat newspaper ran the press conference as a front page story; two days later, an editorial imploring the need to save one of the state's most significant architectural landmarks.
For more information contact:

Phipps Jewelry goes green — Chic Verte!
The Farm Equestrian Center at 4300 Meridian Road - Tallahassee

Phipps Jewelry – Chic Verte showroom. Inside, an eclectic mix of pieces from the Phipps family's heritage at Old Westbury are combined with the jewelry's various showcase displays.
Decomposing wood, deplumed feathers and deteriorating antler shed may not sound like the raw materials for one-of-a-kind jewelry, accessories, and décor but accomplished designer–sculptor Lisa Sheryle Phipps has skillfully reclaimed these vestiges and transformed them into Chic Verte, a recently launched addition to her and husband Gavin Phipps' previous Phipps Jewelry collaborative venture based in Tallahassee. Lisa and Gavin, who fires up the chainsaw when needed, set up a workshop, studio, and showroom at the family's North Meridian Road property, known as The Farm Equestrian Center. Though not as well-known as the family's interest in all things equine, creating jewelry is also a page in the Phipps family's history. Gavin's great-grandmother Chicagoan Elizabeth (Mrs. William) Klapp began designing jewelry of some distinction in 1898.

After enjoying some success and personal satisfaction from designing custom pieces for clients, the Phippses took a hiatus after their children were born. Then, last fall Lisa was inspired by her surroundings and began working with organic found materials elements found on the property as well as the family's Montana ranch and Cape Cod house.

And while other Phipps family members have built up a considerable presence in the Red Hills area with their organic farming ventures, Lisa decided acorns and feathers could not only be just as captivating as diamonds and pearls but also have some significant relevance. Lisa's aesthetic gives new life to natural and environmental materials, such as antlers, shells, acorns, shark teeth, eel skin, and coral. In a recent interview, she said, "The indigenous environmental materials I repurpose have fallen on their own or been left to waste away. The resources, much like fabrics and textiles, I use are really just anything that I come across that I find interesting or pretty," Phipps said.
Phipps Jewelry is located in a frame cottage row of family offices.
These more formal pieces from Phipps Jewelry feature natural elements, such as coral and lava rock.
Phipps Jewelry is available through Peter Martino- Private Jeweler who can be reached at or 973-571-9886.
The quail remains a Phipps Jewelry signature piece, representing the sporting life found on former cotton fields turned into hunting plantations following the Civil War.
Inspired by her passion for the natural environment, Lisa Phipps has transformed a resourceful aesthetic into an innovative line of jewelry where she makes the most of
With their eco-jewelry, Lisa Phipps and Gavin Phipps, both Rollins College alums, are reclaiming a part of the family's past as well as crafting artful objet trouve recovered on the land surrounding Chic Verte's studio and workshop. Married for 20 years, Lisa and Gavin share a mutual affinity for conservation. Their imaginative ongoing stewardship, making environmental issues relevant and current as wearable accessories and works of art, is something they hope will inspire their three children who will one day care and manage the property. Gavin also heads up Golden Acorn Equestrian Consulting and Development LLC, currently pursuing staging international equestrian events.
Mrs. W. H. Klapp, Chicago's Woman Jewelry Designer, was Gavin Phipps' great-grandmother.
The annual spring Red Hills International Horse Trials event was held at The Farm until it was moved to the adjacent 900-acre Elinor Klapp Phipps Park, named for Gavin and Lisa's grandmother. Last year, the event attracted 20,000 spectators. The stables, pictured above, are located across from the Chic Verte jewelry showroom.
The Dressage bracelet line features a silver bit paired with velvety suede bands that simulate the feel of a rider's touch on a horse's reigns.
Stirrups make up the Trifecta Trio pendant necklace.
At Phipps Jewelry, keepsake accessory pieces are custom designed.
The Chief cuff is made with gold and garnet clay. Tallahassee is known for its red, clay hills; the nearby Florida State University Seminoles were the 2013 National Football Champions.
A teepee planted among vestiges of steeplechase jumps.
"My father calls this Eden," said Gavin Phipps when we toured the property.
In this tableau, acorns adorn a belt buckle, bracelets and earrings.
From the woods to the workshop ... from studio to the showroom
The workshop.
Once the resources are prepped, they are ready for the studio cottage.
Chic Verte, studio cottage. Just as the surrounding land contains a vast mix of ecological and archaeological elements, Lisa Phipps' designs become free-spirited, wearable art.
Spalted wood pendant necklaces await finishing touches in the studio.
Voila! The Dragonfly earring features spalted wood which naturally mimics the patterns of the wing.
A dragonfly pendant adds a dash to the bracelet.
An oyster ballerina bracelet highlighted with an Apalachicola shell from her "shore" collection. This is paired with her "Trot" stirrup bracelet. Combining different elements of earth, wind and sea, the inspiration from the Phipps' summer home on Cape Cod is evident.
The Ranch collection features antler earrings that can be mistaken for precious gems. The family ranch in Montana includes mule deer.
In the cottage studio, the Tromp necklace pendant features a spalted wood pendant and horse hair tassel.
The Tromp necklace in the showroom with earrings.
An elegant textured Antler Burr is styled as a pink suede ballerina bracelet.
Feathers found on the property inspired myriad designs.
Hand-painted feather necklaces by Lisa Phipps.
An old clock face from Old Westbury serves as a showroom backdrop.
Chic Verte jewelry is available online and at Divas and Devils House of Style, owned by Tallahassee stylist Michelle Torregrosa.
At the shop, Jacqueline Grimes wears a selection from Chic Verte layered with a bohemian flair. Also at D & D House of Style, Rachel Shireman wears Chic Verte necklace, bracelets and ring with an evening dress.
Buckle Up with Chic Verte!
The Heritage collection features spalted wood from trees that have naturally fallen on the Phipps family properties. Because of the natural progression of spalting, there are no two pieces alike, assuring the jewelry wearer has a one-of-a-kind work of art.
The Strut peacock feather belt buckle is shown with a soft creamy belt. In the past, the house at Ayavalla had peacocks roaming amongst the moss-draped oaks.
Ayavalla Plantation
This adventurous road winds through Ayavalla Plantation, several thousand acres of uplands, ponds, oaks, pines, riverfronts, glades, gardens, kennels, and berry patches, as much home to bats as birds and butterflies.
Ayavalla, façade. According to a published report, the main house was built c. 1940 and designed by New York architects Clinton B. F. Brill and Edward Durrell Stone, with suggestions by Ben Phipps. Brill was married to Mrs. Ben ("Clippie") Phipps' sister Elizabeth Klapp Brill. A noted architect-engineer, Clinton Brill became head of the New York Thruway. Brill was affiliated with various firms in the building of Idlewild Airport. When Ayavalla was being built, he was also credited with designs at the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1954, according to available online archives at the University of Florida, Clinton Brill became a registered Florida architect, eventually living in Tallahassee. The word Ayavalla was reported to translate as "tearful" in Native American-speak. Drought had left Lake Jackson dry and the tribe was thankful when it rained and refilled with water. Thus, the name of the lake became Ayavalla.
Ayavalla, the central staircase.
Ayavalla Plantation, staircase design study.
Ayavalla, the cutting garden.
Broad pathways sweep between the plantings in the cutting garden.
Found in the garden.
A garden ramada.
Garden furniture.
Ayavalla, south elevation facing Lake Jackson.
Ayavalla Plantation. From the terrace above, the view to the lake beyond.
Back at the Chic Verte showroom, Roger stands guard.
For further information about Chic Verte, please visit or call 850-294-1789.

Author Robert Olen Butler at Rosewood
Asa May House — near Monticello

It was late afternoon, the sky rumbling with thunder during out drive from Tallahassee to Rosewood, but by the time we parked beneath the oaks, the storm was no more than sound effects. I admit I was unfamiliar with who the owner was of historic Rosewood house when I inquired if I could come by and photograph it for my ongoing studies on Red Hills plantations. Readers may recall that the last installment was last December's look at Greenwood Plantation, the Whitney's preserve in Thomasville. What a pleasure meeting author Robert Olen Butler! A Northwestern grad who was a playwright and an editor for a Fairchild publication in New York before becoming a full-time fiction writer, Butler is as bold as one of his plots. Yes, there was all the ink years ago about his previous wife leaving him for his neighbor Ted Turner, whose Avalon Plantation is across the highway from Butler, that we didn't even talk about. Several hours passed as quickly as one of his page-turning stories before we decamped for Rancho Grande, Bob and Kelly's favorite Mexican restaurant in downtown Monticello.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen "Bob" Butler standing beneath one of his many tall moss-covered oaks in front of his home for the past 14 years. "They're going to have to carry me out of here in a body bag," said Butler, who understandably loves the 178-year-old antebellum house that he shares with his wife Kelly Lee Butler and their bichons.
Rosewood was listed in the National Register in 1972.
Rosewood, Photograph dated 1981. Courtesy State of Florida Archives, Florida Photograph Collection.
Rosewood, façade. June 2014. A museum-quality restoration.
Rosewood, view to the southeast with the guest house/writer's cottage, to the left. Bob first led my friend Diane and I to the guest house that he uses as his writing retreat.
A writer's desk. Butler has written several collections of stories, including Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards (Grove/Atlantic, 2004). He has also authored 16 novels, including They Whisper (Holt, 1994), Tabloid Dreams (Holt, 1996), and Mr. Spaceman (Grove, 2000). A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Holt, 1992) was the collection that won him the 1993 Pulitzer prize in Fiction. He has also written screenplays for Hollywood studios, and his many award-winning stories have been included in editions of The Best American Short Stories.
A writer's notebook next to the Apple.
The guest house/writing cottage's bathroom walls are covered with messages from the Butlers' notable houseguests, Pulitzer Prize winners among them: Amy Tan, 22 February 2005. Tan is best known for her 1989 NYT bestseller The Joy Luck Club.
Richard Ford. 23 February 2004. For his novel Independence Day, Richard Ford won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.
Back at the main house ...
Kelly Lee Butler. A former newspaper journalist, Kelly is pursuing a Ph.D. in Poetry at FSU.
Bob and Kelly Butler believe there is a ghost in the house. "We have sensed it, felt it, and heard it," Bob remarked, mentioning hammering sounds and unexplained open cabinets, among the tells.
The living room's focal point is the painting above the fireplace, acquired in Vietnam.
Living room, looking northwest.
A writer's instrument from another time.
The center hall has become a dining room that opens onto the back porch.
Opposite the living room, an eclectic den area. "We've been led to believe the door to the left of the fireplace was the slave entrance," said Butler.
Early Louboutins? No, Mao's standard issue to the women who were victims of Chinese foot binding traditions from Bob Butler's extensive historic shoe collection.
Robert Olen Butler. "Twenty years ago kids were on the phone. Now they are getting back to writing ... Texting, yes; communication in a form that reflects their generation ... The important thing is that they express themselves clearly, directly, make themselves understood…. Another upside of the electronic age, Kindles ..."
The 1993 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Robert Olen Butler, author. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.
"I wrote my Pulitzer Prize work on this Tandy computer."
A floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the den.
The kitchen windows, looking south.
Kitchen. "My hot sauce collection."
Looking into the library where Butler has an amusing collection of improbable book titles including The Inventions of the Idiot.
Book shelves line the library walls.
"Favors from the first Mardi Gras after Katrina," Butler pointed out.
Kelly Butler also enjoys collecting. Above, a Josephine Baker window dressing.
The center hall stairs lead to the master bedroom and a guest bedroom, currently utilized by a graduate student who is cataloguing Butler's papers. A view from the front porch looking west toward the main road. After dinner,, Bob and Kelly took us on a walk to the center of town where Bob pointed out the Opera House, where he has staged readings to raise funds for the local venue, the Hanging Tree, and the Confederate Daughters' monument, vestiges of the Old South.
The Call-Collins House at The Grove nears completion
West First Avenue — Tallahassee

Set to open in January 2015, the Call-Collins House at The Grove is in the final stages of a complete restoration and historic rehabilitation by The Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. The site will feature educational exhibits on the home's three floors and throughout the 10-acre grounds where there is ample space for events, weddings, conferences, meetings, and other special occasions that evoke the legacy of dedicated public service. The Division of Historic resources acknowledges the work of the following individuals and companies that worked on the project: MLD Architects, Inc., Allstate Construction, Inc., EverGreene Architectural Arts, Inc., Nobles Consulting Group, Inc., Cathedral Stone Products, Connell Cabinets, H2Engineering, Inc., Conservation Solutions, Inc., David H. Melvin, Inc. Consulting Engineers, General Lee's Painters, Inc., CCS Restoration, LLC, Engineered Restorations, Inc., Structural Preservation Systems, LLC, Lawson and Lawson Electrical Service, Benson's Heating and A/C, Paul & Son Plumbing, LLC, Harrell Roofing, Inc., Link Flooring, Inc., and Dacar Fire Protection, Inc. Several of the state's historic preservation architects worked on the project, including Phil Wisely and David Ferro, both now retired, as well as Eva Osborne. Richard Hilburn is currently working on the project.

Richard Keith Call.
During the early 1800s, Richard Keith Call purchased 640 acres of land at $1.25 per acre in Tallahassee. Inspired by Andrew Jackson's Hermitage in Nashville, Call served as his own architect and construction manager in building the imposing Greek Revival style mansion. Several years after the family moved into the house, President Jackson appointed Call to a three-year term as Florida's Territorial Governor. In 1841 President William Henry Harrison appointed Call to a second three year term, during which time his home, now known as The Grove, became the center of public and social gatherings in Tallahassee. After Florida became a State in 1845, Call ran unsuccessfully in a state-wide election for Governor and retired from public service.

In 1851 Call moved to Orchard Pond plantation, a then more than 8,000-acre property, later reduced to more than 2,600 acres, now owned by the Ayavalla Land Company, a Phipps family interest. Following Call's death, The Grove remained in the family. In 1942, the house and property were put on the market. Call's great-granddaughter, Mary Call, and her husband, an aspiring politician LeRoy Collins, purchased the property in November 1942. With the house and grounds in disrepair, the Collinses began restoring the home and reacquiring some the property previously sold off, including the parcel containing the family cemetery. Largely through the leadership of Mary Collins, the house was restored. While her husband became governor during the 1950s, Mary Collins became one of the leaders of the growing historic preservation movement in both Florida and the United States.

Johnathan H. Grandage,
director of The Grove site, gave me an in-depth tour of the property and a detailed account of the years of preservation work that went into the five-year project.
Call-Collins House at The Grove, view looking northeast towards the main house. "The Collins' grandchildren enjoyed playing on the swing," remarked Grandage.
Johnathan H. Grandage, director of the Call-Collins House at The Grove. Grandage points out the original bricks and the replacement ones installed during the recent restoration.
Façade, undergoing some cosmetic finishes.
A plastic slither keeps the critters and woodpeckers away.
The Center hall features the original staircase installed by the Call family, said to be modeled from Andrew Jackson's plantation home The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee.
Central staircase, detail.
A view of the center hall looking toward the front door from a later enclosed porch addition.
A pair of matching perfectly square formal rooms with marble fireplaces flank the center hall.
The second-story stair rail gets final touch-ups.
An upstairs southwest bedroom shows off a coat of historically appropriate paint color.
A second floor Palladian-style window overlooks a stand of oaks on the property's north side.
An enclosed porch was added by Mary and LeRoy Collins to the property's north elevation.
This north porch addition to the Call-Collins House will serve as the public entrance when the house opens in January 2015.
William S. Burroughs Collection
Special Collections @ Strozier Library — Florida State University

Light years ago in pursuit of an English Lit degree at Florida State, I wrote a paper titled Entropy and Image: William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Perhaps not as well received by my professor as might have been my thoughts on Flannery O'Connor or Ralph Ellison. So when I read the university had accessioned a massive amount of Burroughs' archival materials, described as "at least a storage unit" by Katie McCormick, an associate dean of Libraries, I was pleased to see FSU had moved into the 20th century.
Danger Series – Portrait of William S. Burroughs, by Brion Gysin, Paris, October 1959.
Strozier Library, Special collections.
Francois Bucher (1927-1999) was a Swiss medieval and modernist scholar who taught at Florida State and became a friend of William Burroughs'. Bucher's 400-acre think tank near Tallahassee was patterned from Buckminster Fuller's concepts. His obituary described him as " an exotic combination of an Old World intellectual and lifelong Bohemian."
Katie McCormick, associate dean of Libraries for FSU's Special Collections & Archives.
Naked Lunch, first edition, and a Grove Press Study Guide for Naked Lunch.
Naked Lunch, back cover reviews.
The collection documents Burroughs' novels as well as his collaborative gallery and museum exhibitions.
The collection includes folders filled with handwritten manuscripts.
The collection features corrected manuscripts and envelopes filled with the author's cut-up collage compositions ...
Brion Gysin's letters are also a part of the Burroughs Collection ...
Hand-painted Christmas card. William Burroughs, artist.
"Wm. Burroughs slightly zonked … Who are you an agent for?' William Burroughs. Tangier, 1961. Allen Ginsberg.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.