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Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

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Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Cummer Museum, Jacksonville, FL, US (02).jpg
Entrance to the Cummer Museum
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is located in Central Jacksonville
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Location within Central Jacksonville
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is located in Florida
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Location within Central Jacksonville
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is located in the US
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Location within Central Jacksonville
Former name The Cummer Gallery
Established November 11, 1961 (1961-11-11)
Location Jacksonville, Florida
Coordinates 30°18′54″N 81°40′37″W / 30.314945°N 81.676900°W / 30.314945; -81.676900
Type Art museum
Accreditation American Alliance of Museums
Visitors 130,000 annual[1]
Founder Ninah Cummer
Director Holly Keris (Acting)[2]
Curator Holly Keris
Public transit access Bus: R5, WS12
Nearest parking Across the street (no charge)

Cummer Gardens
NRHP Reference # 09000345[3]
Added to NRHP January 25, 2010[3]

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is a museum located in Jacksonville, Florida. It was founded in 1961 after the death of Ninah Cummer, who bequeathed her gardens and personal art collection to the new museum. The Cummer Museum has since expanded to include the property owned by Ninah's brother-in-law, but it still includes her original garden designs and a portion of her home with its historic furnishing. The museum and gardens attract 130,000 visitors annually.

The permanent collection of the museum currently includes over five thousand works of art dating from 2100 BCE to the twenty-first century. The museum's collection is especially strong in European and American paintings and also includes substantial holdings of Meissen porcelain. The museum also has an award-winning education center, Art Connections, which possesses a number of interactive educational installations and serves underprivileged and special education students with its programs.

There are three flower gardens on the museum grounds, the oldest dating back to 1903. These gardens have preserved their original layout for over a century and were designed by landscape designers such as the Olmsted Brothers, Thomas Meehan & Sons, and Ellen Biddle Shipman. The Cummer Gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Cummer family[edit]

Ninah Cummer

The history of the Cummer Museum dates back to 1902.[4] That year, Arthur and Ninah Cummer built their home on Riverside Avenue. Arthur's parents Wellington and Ada Cummer lived next door, and Arthur's brother Waldo and sister-in-law Clara lived nearby. Wellington Cummer was a wealthy lumber baron from Cadillac, Michigan who moved to Jacksonville in 1896. The Cummer Lumber company was, at one point, the largest landowner in Florida.[5] Wellington also built the Jacksonville and Southwestern Railroad.[citation needed]

In 1906, on their honeymoon, Ninah and Arthur Cummer purchased their first piece of art, a painting titled Along the Strand directly from the artist, Paul King.[6] The painting depicts two men riding horse-drawn carts on a beach. In 1931, Ada Cummer died, and her two sons tore down her old home and split the property. Ninah Cummer then hired landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman to create the Italian Garden on her and Arthur's land.[7] Clara Cummer had her portion combined with her existing garden to create the Olmsted Garden.[citation needed]

After Arthur's death in January 1943,[8] Ninah Cummer began collecting art in earnest. During the fifteen years before her death, Ninah expanded her art collection to sixty pieces, all of which are still in the Museum’s collection today.[9] In 1957, the year before her death, Ninah announced that her gifts would “make only a small beginning toward a large vision”[9] and hoped “that others will share this vision and by their interest and contributions will help establish here a center of beauty and culture worthy of the community.”[9] She created the DeEtte Holden Cummer Museum Foundation, named for the deceased infant daughter of the Cummers,[8] to manage her vision after her death.[10]

The Museum[edit]

The new Cummer Gallery building, from a 1965 brochure.

Ninah Cummer and Clara Cummer, both now widows, died in 1958. Ninah Cummer left her estate, including her gardens, to the DeEtte Holden Cummer Museum Foundation for a museum to house her art collection. In 1960, the siblings' homes were both demolished in order to build the museum. Clara and Waldo's property was sold and now houses the Northeast Florida chapter of the American Red Cross and the Cummer's education center, Art Connections. Parts of the gardens were also destroyed during this demolition. The new building was designed by Saxelbye and Powell and constructed in 1961.[8] It featured an Art Deco façade and an inner courtyard that was paved with the terra cotta tiles of the Cummers' old roof. One room from the original Cummer home, known as the Tudor Room, was preserved and incorporated into the new museum.[8] The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, then named The Cummer Gallery, opened on November 11, 1961.[9]

The museum's first opening was attended by one thousand guests, including Jacksonville Mayor W. Haydon Burns and Florida Governor Farris Bryant.[9] Burns was noted as saying, "The people of Jacksonville have never received a gift comparable in generosity or beauty to the museum… a testament to the heritage of the past and representing the strength and character of those who were leaders of Jacksonville in the past."[9] The museum's collection was on display, as well as three special exhibitions: a collection of 51 etchings by James McBey (now part of the Museum’s permanent collection), a selection of French paintings on loan from a New York gallery, and an exhibition of American art on loan from the National Academy of Design.[9]

In 1971, ten years after the museum's opening, the Cummer celebrated the addition of a new wing for 17th-century art.[11]

In 1989, the museum acquired an ancient Egyptian stela, dating back to 2100 BCE, making it the oldest piece of art in the museum's collection.[12]

The Barnett building behind the museum's sculpture garden.

The Cummer Museum acquired the Barnett building in the early 1990s, remodeling the first floor into the museum’s education center, Art Connections, and using the second floor for administrative offices. The two buildings were connected by the Barnett Concourse, and two more major galleries were added. This expansion was completed in 1992. In early 2002, the museum acquired the adjacent Woman's Club of Jacksonville, a Tudor-style residential building which would serve as a space for programs and events for the museum.[13] The museum also acquired the Jacobsen Gallery of American Art in 2005,[14] and the Mason Gallery in 2006.[15]

On January 25, 2010, the Cummer Gardens were added to the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

In March 2016, the board of trustees of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens announced that the old Woman's Club of Jacksonville, which was to become a center for programming for the museum, would have to be demolished because of an infestation of Formosan subterranean termites, costing the museum its $7 million investment into the building.[16] It had been previously listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[17]


Stele of Iku and Mer-imat, c. 2100 BCE

The Cummer Museum’s art collection has expanded from the group of more than 60 works of Ninah Cummer's collection to over 5,000 works of art.[18] The permanent collection spans from 2100 BCE through the 21st century and includes pieces created by Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, Norman Rockwell, and Romare Bearden. It is also home to the Wark Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain. Pieces in the museum's collection were either donated to the museum, like the Wark collection, or they were purchased using the museum's acquisition fund, which is sustained through individual gifts and fundraising events.[19][20]

Special collections[edit]

A piece of the museum's Meissen porcelain collection.

The Cummer Museum possesses seven special collections:

  • The Constance I. and Ralph H. Wark Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain – Ralph Wark began collecting Meissen porcelain in 1922. Over the years, he acquired a collection of over 700 pieces. Wark and his sister Constance moved to St. Augustine and donated the collection to the Cummer in 1965.[8]
  • The Eugène Louis Charvot Collection – Over 200 works produced by Eugène Louis Charvot, a French doctor and army officer as well as a painter.[21]
  • Joseph Jeffers Dodge Collection – 230 works by American realist artist Joseph Jeffers Dodge.[21]
  • The Dennis C. Hayes Collection of Japanese Prints – A collection of 190 Japanese prints that encompass the 19th and 20th centuries.[21]
  • The James McBey Collection – One of the largest collection of James McBey's works outside of his native Scotland, this collection spans his entire career.[21]
  • The Eugene Savage Collection – A collection of works by National Academy of Design member Eugene Savage that depicts Seminole traditions in the 1930s.[21]
  • Permanent Collection Archives and Rare Books – A collection of archival materials and rare books that supplement the other special collections, which includes a portion of the Cummers' personal library.[21]
    The Tudor Room

The Tudor Room[edit]

One room from the original Cummer home, known as the Tudor Room, was preserved in order that "the public at large may enjoy some insight into the personality of the owner."[8] It retains all of its historic furniture, including a number of paintings from the Cummers' original collection. It also features portraits of both Ninah and Arthur Cummer, as well as a needlepoint by Ninah depicting her Italian Garden.[citation needed]


A number of sculptures that are a part of the Permanent Collection are displayed in the landscape around the museum. Janet Scudder's Running Boy is on display in the courtyard, and Riis Burwell’s Entropy Series #26 sits above the Italian Garden.[22] A sculpture of Mercury by an unknown artist stands in the center of the Olmsted Garden. Diana of the Hunt, by American artist Anna Hyatt Huntington, is located in the upper tier of the gardens. A sculpture garden surrounds the outside of the Barnett building. Various other pieces are on display inside the museum.[citation needed]

The Gardens[edit]

The Cummer Gardens are 1.45 acres[3] of historic gardens made up of native Florida plants, large live oak trees, and a number of reflecting pools, fountains, ornaments and sculptures. They are split into three themed gardens and a large lawn on the St. Johns River. Many of the original trees on the property were felled in order to make room for flower beds, but those that remained grew up to 150 feet in size. Ninah Cummer adopted the lion as her personal motif, and lion details can be found all over the gardens.[10]

The first gardens on the Cummer property were designed by Ossian Cole Simonds in 1903, just after the adjoining house was completed.[23] Thomas Meehan & Sons of Philadelphia redesigned this garden and created what would become known as the English Garden in 1910. Ellen Biddle Shipman designed the Italian Garden in 1931. Sections of Clara and Waldo's garden were designed by William Lyman Phillips, a partner in the Olmstead Brothers firm. The Olmsted Brothers also advised Ninah on a design for a wall garden in 1922, but she chose to plant a garden designed by William Mercer of Philadelphia.[10]

The Cummer Gardens are the only gardens in Florida that have preserved their original layout and planting schemes for over one hundred years and for this reason were recognized in 2010 by the National Register of Historic Places.[23]

The English Garden[edit]

The English Garden

The English Garden is a rectangular garden featuring brick paths, a pergola that features cypress trees at the head of the garden, and a number of statues and garden ornaments. The garden has hundreds of native trees, shrubs, and perennials, most notably azaleas. It also features a wall garden, which was built in 1922.[10] The centerpiece of the garden is a large wisteria arbor.[citation needed]

Thomas Meehan & Sons of Philadelphia designed the English Garden in 1910. It was first known as the Wisteria Garden.[23] In 1925, Ninah attended a lecture on azaleas given by H. Harold Hume, a horticulturist known for his work with azaleas, camellias, and citrus. This lecture sparked her interest in azaleas, so she visited azalea gardens in Charleston, South Carolina for inspiration. Advised by Hume, she replanted much of her English garden with them, renaming it the Azalea Garden.[24]

The Italian Garden[edit]

The Italian Garden

Ellen Biddle Shipman designed the Italian Garden in May 1931.[7] It features two rows of clipped evergreens between two long, rectangular reflecting pools. It has a focal point at the end of the garden in the form of a marble fountain surrounded by an arched gloriette. There are also a number of statues, ornaments, tubs of small trees, and flowers.[citation needed]

In 2002, the focal fountain, made of Verona aggregate that had deteriorated over time, was replaced with an exact reproduction of Botticino marble, sculpted by Nicola Stagetti in Pietrasanta, Italy.[23]

The Olmsted Garden[edit]

The statue of Mercury in the Olmsted Garden

The Olmsted Garden was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in New York City.[23] It was located behind Waldo and Clara's home. It features numerous varieties of flowers and trees, a curved staircase, portico, and three garden rooms.[citation needed]

After the property was sold in 1960, the garden fell into disrepair, but with the purchase of the Barnett building, plans were made to restore it using historical photographs. The restoration to the original layout was completed in 2013.[25] In its prime, the garden's centerpiece was a neoclassical bronze statue of Mercury by an unknown artist. The statue was given away in the 1960s, but it was donated back to the museum around 2013, to be displayed in the restored garden.[26]


A timeline of art history located in Art Connections.

The 1992 expansion of the museum made space for a new education center named Art Connections. Art Connections has allowed thousands of local schoolchildren an art education experience through hands-on experiences, art classes, and special tours for students.[27] In 1994, Art Connections received the National Award for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for outstanding community service.[28]

Art Connections underwent a complete renovation in 2004. Most of the work went into installing new, high-tech activities, including a virtual canvas powered by a laser-light paintbrush and a room that turns dancers' shadows into art on the wall.[29]

Art Connections houses a number of educational programs, such as Women of Vision, Junior Docents, the VSA Arts Festival, Cummer in the Classroom, and the Weaver Academy of Art.[30]

The Very Special Arts Festival is an annual festival for special education students hosted at the Cummer Museum that saw over 2,000 students and 1,000 volunteers in 2014.[31] Guided by museum volunteers, students engage in hands-on art projects, some of which have gone on to be displayed in the museum.[citation needed]

The Weaver Academy of Art at The Cummer Museum was created in 2007 for underserved elementary school-aged children. The program serves more than 3,000 students and 200 teachers in the local area. The program, the largest educational program at the Cummer Museum, provides museum tours, classroom outreach, training for teachers, and free passes for teachers and students.[32]



  1. ^ "Venues: Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  2. ^ "About". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 1/25/10 through 1/29/10, National Park Service (February 5, 2010).
  4. ^ Crystal Jones and Joey Marchy. "Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens  » Garden Timeline". Cummer Museum & Gardens. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  5. ^ Delicious (2011-11-17). "The Cummers of Riverside". Jacksonville Historical Society. Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  6. ^ Joey Marchy & Crystal Jones. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline : Cummers Purchase First Work of Art". Cummer Museum & Gardens. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  7. ^ a b Charlie Patton (April 6, 2013). "Cummer's restored Olmsted Garden will open April 11". Florida Times-Union. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f The DeEtte Holden Cummer Museum Foundation. The Cummer Gallery of Art. Jacksonville: DeEtte Holden Cummer Museum Foundation, 1965. Print.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Amber Sesnick (June 9, 2012). "The Founding of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens". Metro Jacksonville. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Cummer Legacy." Audio blog post. Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.
  11. ^ "New Wing for the Cummer". November 7, 1971 – via Times Journal Magazine. 
  12. ^ Jones, Joey Marchy & Crystal Jones. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline: Acquisition of Ancient Egyptian Stela". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  13. ^ Sandy Strickland (June 6, 2007). "Woman's Club to donate van to its PAL". Florida Times-Union. 
  14. ^ Diane DeMell Jacobsen. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline: Museum Expansion: The Jacobsen Gallery". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  15. ^ Joey Marchy & Crystal Jones. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline Museum Expansion: The Mason Gallery". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  16. ^ Charlie Patton (April 26, 2016). "Termite infestation forces Cummer to demolish Woman's Club of Jacksonville building". Florida Times-Union. 
  17. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Woman's Club of Jacksonville". National Park Service. September 30, 1992. 
  18. ^ "Cummer Museum Celebrates 55th Anniversary | The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens". Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  19. ^ Jones, Wingard Creative, Joey Marchy, Crystal. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline : First Ball and Auction". Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  20. ^ Jones, Wingard Creative, Joey Marchy, Crystal. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline : The Acquisition of Moran". Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Permanent Collection". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  22. ^ "Art | Cummer Museum". Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  23. ^ a b c d e Stephen Dare (December 15, 2012). "The Cummer's Olmsted Garden Restoration Underway". Metro Jacksonville. 
  24. ^ Joey Marchy & Crystal Jones. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline : Azaleas Introduced Into Gardens". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  25. ^ Charlie Patton (April 6, 2013). "Cummer's restored Olmsted Garden will open April 11". Florida Times-Union. 
  26. ^ Crystal Jones and Joey Marchy. "Olmsted Garden". Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  27. ^ Joey Marchy & Crystal Jones. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline : Art Connections Founded". Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  28. ^ "Institute of Museum and Library Services Announces 20th Anniversary of National Medal Program" (Press release). Institute of Museum and Library Services. February 19, 2014. 
  29. ^ Davis, Beth (2002-09-26). "Cummer Museum's Art Connections getting facelift". Jacksonville Business Journal. 
  30. ^ Joey Marchy & Crystal Jones. "Cummer Museum 50th Anniversary Timeline: Art Connections Programs". Cummer Museum. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  31. ^ Dan Scanlan (May 8, 2017). "Very Special Arts lets exceptional education students create in Cummer's galleries". Florida Times-Union. 
  32. ^ "Academic Programs / Academic Programs". Duval County Public Schools. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 

External links[edit]