The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is proud to announce the full reopening of its historic gardens, which sustained extensive damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The $1.3 million reconstruction of the lower tier of the Museum’s historically significant English, Italian and Olmsted Gardens started in January 2019. The project was completed in June 2019. Historic records from the Cummer family archives, including plant logs, photographs and invoices, were incorporated into the reconstruction plans to preserve the original intent and historic character of the riverfront gardens, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
Photo of the reconstructed gardens by Toni Smailagic of Cre8Jax
“The Cummer Gardens are among the most precious works of art in our permanent collection. We have been tirelessly working to restore the gardens for the community to enjoy, and welcome the community to celebrate this milestone with us all summer — especially during free access opportunities like Florida Blue Free Tuesdays, Weaver First Saturday Free for All and Summer Fridays, presented by PNC Bank,” said Adam Levine, Ph.D., the Museum’s George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs Director & Chief Executive Officer.
Hurricane Irma swept through Jacksonville on September 11, 2017. As a result of the storm and subsequent flooding of the St. Johns River, the lower tier of all three formal garden spaces are believed to have been submerged in as much as four feet of water for more than 24 hours. The water uprooted plants, detached the railing along the river, contaminated the soil and damaged the physical infrastructure of the gardens, including drainage, electric, fencing and the well that services the landscape.
In January 2018, the Museum announced the selection of WLA Studio, an award-winning landscape architecture and planning firm based in Athens, Ga., to lead the garden reconstruction. The firm’s experience in both historic landscape preservation and environmental design was critical to the Museum’s goal of preserving the atmospheric intent of the original gardens, while making necessary adjustments to reflect modern-day climate and soil conditions. A comprehensive project team managed by Danis worked alongside WLA Studio.
Funds for the reconstruction came from grants and private donations from several benefactors, including the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), the State of Florida, the Garden Conservancy and the Garden Club of America’s Restoration Initiative.
“We are grateful to those organizations and individuals who committed support to bringing the Cummer’s gardens back to their former glory, and ensuring this institution remains a place for art and beauty for all of Jacksonville,” said Levine.
About the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens:
For almost 60 years, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens has been committed to engaging and inspiring through the arts, gardens, and education. A permanent collection of more than 5,000 objects and historic gardens on a riverfront campus offers nearly 140,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast. Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities. For further information, including hours, visit www.cummermuseum.org.