Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Spring House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed private residence built in Florida. Built in the 1950’s and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the house sits on a now-ten acre plot of land north of Tallahassee. Since 1996, the Spring House Institute has been working to restore the house with the goal of both preserving it and opening it to the public.
During my visit, one of the children who grew up in the house talked about her time there – who better to interpret the house than one of its original residents? For interpreters who do not have an original resident handy, several resources offer advice for interpreting historic houses.
In their seventh principle, Beck and Cable note that interpreting historical resources is not significantly different from interpreting natural resources, and that every natural area has a history and every historic site is linked to nature. My time at Spring House was focused on removing the rampant, invasive, and exotic coral ardesia, the removal of which both benefits the habitat now and restores the land to its 1950’s look. Are there methods and techniques you use for interpreting natural resources that would also work for historic resources?
On its website, the American Association for State and Local History has collected resources on a variety of topics, including education, interpretation, and historic houses. On January 30, the organization is hosting a webinar, “Historic House Call: Creating Engaging and Memorable Tours.”
The National Park Service’s cultural resources website provides a variety of resources, from technical know-how to education, as well as several publications.
Frank Lloyd Wright noted that, “Every great architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” How will you interpret the time, the day, the age of your historic resource?