Cummer Museum announces completion of $1.3 million garden reconstruction


Hurricane Irma swept through Jacksonville on Sept. 11, 2017. As a result of the storm and subsequent flooding of the St. Johns River, the historic gardens of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens required an extensive restoration. The museum recently announced the full reopening of its gardens.

The lower tier of all three formal garden spaces are believed to have been submerged in as much as 4 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.

The $1.3 million reconstruction of the lower tier of the museum’s historically significant English, Italian and Olmsted Gardens started in January and was completed in June. 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.

“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, the Museum’s George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs director and chief executive officer.

In January 2018, the Museum announced the selection of WLA Studio, an award-winning landscape architecture and planning firm based in Athens, Georgia, 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, the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, 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.

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