In the face of a country’s lingering Depression in the mid 1930s and a looming war in Europe the decorated ceiling at Wakulla Springs Lodge is an outstanding emblem of the spirit of that decade. The ceiling icons represent a people who wanted to contribute their care, joy of life and inspiration through art.
Several observers have stressed the beauty of the eclectic ceiling decorations at Wakulla Springs lodge. What is striking about such an attribution is that the individual images that are painted on the ceiling are barely discernible save for four bird paintings, four paintings of Spanish galleons, a few land and seascapes, and two portraits of unknown women.
After 60 years, the ceiling — with financial help from the State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources and the Historic Preservation Board — was professionally conserved and cleaned.
People began looking up in 2002 at Wakulla Springs State Park when a team of conservators brought attention to the lodge’s painted ceiling.
Perched atop scaffolding, seven artisans removed the soot and grime of ages from the 5,800–square–foot lobby ceiling.
Friends of Wakulla Springs State Park obtained a grant from the State of Florida’s Division of Historic Resources to conserve this folk art treasure, which is original to the 1937 lodge.
Rustin Levenson, Art Conservation Association, Miami (who co–authored “Seeing Through Paintings”); brought her team of professionals to the serene park for a two-week cleaning and restoration effort.
The decorations are a mixture of painterly styles. Some stenciling is evident, as are repetitive geometric motives. Interspersed and held together by a gleaming string–of–opal effect are historic Florida scenes, four Spanish galleons and four tropical birds. Overlooking people entering the lobby from either end are two stern looking women, both evoking a German “Jugendstil,” akin to the Art Nouveau movement.
A wonderful fully illustrated history book with full color pictures of the lodge ceiling has been published.
“Art and Marble in a Florida Swamp: A New Deal for Wakulla”
By Madeleine Hirsiger-Carr
Photography: Richard Brunck, David Moynahan, Bob Thompson
it is avialble for purchase in the Soda Fountain a the Lodge.