Tudor house keeps professors memory
By Bayard Stern
FSU Communications Group
It won't belong to Florida State, but it will celebrate one of the university's most admired - and sometimes controversial - professors.
Named Lichgate, the late Laura Jepsen's house is a Tudor cottage on three acres of woods on High Road in Tallahassee. It is surrounded by apartment complexes, traffic and general development, but it's a sanctuary from all that, and likely to stay one.
The Laura Jepsen Institute, organized in 1995 to save the property, has just bought it.
The admiration came to Jepsen, the institute has noted, because she was "a lasting and formative influence on decades of Florida State students." A professor of comparative literature from 1946 to 1978, she was also a scholar, naturalist and visionary.
The controversy came with a lawsuit. Because she believed she was underpaid as a professor, and her male counterparts were promoted ahead of her, she sued the university in the '70s. She won.
But her home suggests peace, not lawsuits. The property includes one of Florida's oldest patriarch live-oak trees, flower gardens, the almost-fairy-tale cottage and, of course, a lichgate, for which the house was named.
In medieval England, a lichgate was a place where coffin bearers might rest the coffin before entering the church. The priest and clerk sometimes came to the lichgate to begin the burial service.
Construction began in March 1956 and took two years to complete. Starting from a floor plan Jepsen had drawn, a North Carolina master-craftsman named Bascom Hoyle built the house.
Forty years later, on a clear September morning, the official celebration took place to announce the future of Lichgate on the front steps. Jepsen had left the house and property to the Nature Conservancy, which sold it to the Laura Jepsen Institute.
The purchase agreement ensures that the property's historical features will be maintained, and the agreement guards against future development. The purpose of the Jepsen Institute, now that it has acquired Lichgate, is to "celebrate, memorialize and perpetuate the life's work, personal commitments, professional achievements" of Laura Jepsen.
Community interest in preserving Lichgate grew after the house was vandalized shortly before Jepsen died on Christmas Eve, 1995. A group of her former students, colleagues, acquaintances and others inspired by her life's work established the Laura Jepsen Institute.
The property will be open to the public and small groups.
"Individual contemplation, mental and physical rejuvenation," said Karl Allen, president of the Laura Jepsen Institute, "will be available to all who come visit Lichgate."
Before the house is open to the public, much work is yet to be done.
"We need to repair windows and plumbing," Allen said. "We would like to eventually add a butterfly garden, herb garden and a bird watching area."
And Tallahassee's Clifton Lewis, who found the furniture that once filled the house, plans to bring it back when the house is restored.
Anyone interested in Lichgate can write to the Laura Jepsen Institute, P.O. Box 11305, Tallahassee, Fla. 32302 or call 850/383-6556.
Send a letter to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1997 Florida State Times