County Commissioners Commit $1 Million Toward FSC's Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center
LAKELAND, Fla. (June 17, 2009) — The Polk County Commission today committed $1 million to help Florida Southern College build a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Usonian house to serve as a visitors center for the College's Wright-designed campus. The Usonian house, which Wright designed as part of the campus master plan, would be the first Wright-designed building to be built for an original client on the original site since 1966.
The College is host annually to more than 30,000 national and international visitors who come to Florida Southern to tour the world's largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, including his only planetarium and only theater-in-the-round. With a visitors center to enhance the experience, conservative estimates are that the number of visitors would more than double, to about 75,000 annually, in three years. In addition to an enhanced experience for visitors, the increase in traffic to the campus would positively affect the regional economic impact through increased spending in Polk County and increased publicity about the area both nationally and internationally. Using the state of Florida's calculator for visitor per-day spending, 75,000 visitors would contribute $7,272,500 to the regional economy. The current 30,000 annual visitors are estimated to contribute $2,913,000 to the economy.
During the architect's nearly 20-year relationship with the College, from 1939 to 1958, Wright designed 18 structures for the campus, 12 of which were built. Among the plans left on the drawing board was a Usonian house design meant to serve as inexpensive faculty housing. Designed to control costs, Wright's Usonian houses – which he intended to be built in a distinctly American style that was affordable for the middle class – had no attics, no basements, and little ornamentation. "Usonian" is an acronym for United States of North America.
Florida Southern has been diligent and successful in obtaining nearly $4 million in private and public funds to invest in the restoration of the Colleges Wright-designed structures. Over the last five years, private donors have contributed $1,065,000 to restoration efforts; the federal Save Americas Treasures program has contributed $350,000 (earmarked for Annie Pfeiffer Chapel); and the Florida Department of State has contributed $2,551,800.
"Florida Southern College faculty, staff, and students are privileged to work, and study in a living, breathing Frank Lloyd Wright museum every day," said Dr. Anne Kerr, president of FSC. "We consider it a great honor not only to be entrusted with the preservation of a masterpiece of this quality but also to ensure that we share it with future generations of students and visitors to enjoy and appreciate. The visitors center will give us even greater opportunities to educate others about the historical architectural treasures that exist on our beautiful campus."