The original home of Arthur and Ninah Cummer was built back in 1902 at the same address as the current museum. 4 years later while on their honeymoon, the Cummers purchased their first piece of art. Over the next half century, the Cummers had personally amassed some 60 additional works, all of which are still featured in the museum's collection today. The houses of the Cummers which were originally on this property were demolished in order to make way for a museum to be built and house the art collection. In 1961, The Cummer Gallery opened, thereby paving the formation of the future Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. The collection swelled, the facility grew, and today the facility features more than 7 unique art collections, and 3 distinct garden spaces.
As we drove past downtown Jacksonville, I knew that we were getting close as online pictures of Cummer Gardens often featured the Fuller Warren Bridge in the background. As we made our way down Riverside Avenue, we found a the museum's simple parking lot located just across the street -- no parking fee, and very sufficient parking even for our Sunday visit, when I had expected the museum to be fairly busy.
A stoplight separating the parking lot from the museum made it easy for us to cross the street. Through the glass doors of the main entrance, due to Covid-limited entry admission, a security guard from behind a panel of glass took my last name to ensure that my party of 4 had pre-purchased our tickets and that our name was verified on his list. I could see our upside down names printed on the sheets of paper, and the guard warmly greeted us.
A clear window directly in front of us separated us from a simple, but beautiful courtyard garden. But where do we go: left or right? Immediately to the right, we found the museum's gift shop. Using our imagination from the souvenirs we were seeing, we had some ideas of what types of exhibits lay ahead for us. Glancing down the hallway, we saw multiple security guards each walking either by themselves or with a partner. I can't remember ever seeing so much security for a museum! We grabbed the attention of one of the guards, who stopped and was very polite and patient with us. Through her cloth face mask, she recommended for us to begin our tour through the entryway just down the hall.
We entered the first room. The first thing that I'm noticing immediately is that the frames and the walls have been laid out to greatly compliment each work of art. Just as you are taking in a painting, consideration must also be given to the frame that was selected to display the piece -- all frames appeared to be unique, and like a fine wine pairing with a delectable meal, each frame furthered enhanced the beauty, the visual flavor, of the artwork. Even the lights and shadows appeared to have been done in very dramatic fashion. The layout and arrangement of each piece was extremely well thought out. Each piece had a very individual space associated with it, and the museum -- despite its housing more than 5,000 pieces of art -- somehow maintained a very visually-appealing display. We were well isolated from other guests (which was very much appreciated), yet the museum didn't feel "empty" or "thin". I've visited numerous museums in the past, but this one stood out as having been more well done than most others.
One of the rooms I wish that I had spent a little more time taking in was the Tudor Room. This room was actually part of the original Cummer home. We did take a few photos in here, but I probably should have done better absorbing the history and significance of this space.
The garden spaces are located toward the rear of the property alongside the river. The Olmsted, the English, and the Italian garden spaces, although uniquely distinct, come together to form this beautiful exterior. Large ornate stones, wrought iron gates, exquisite ponds and fountains, and arches lined with abundant foliage can all be found here. With respect to gardens, this specific garden space is one of the smaller ones we've visited recently; however, the photographic opportunities in this space are wildly abundant. Although Cummer possesses some fairly strict rules regarding photography on the property, if you are here with a friend and are good to alternate who is actually taking the photos, you'll come out with some wonderfully appealing photos that look far-removed from any typically palm tree-lined Floridian backdrop.
We'd encourage you to visit Cummer's website when planning your visit. Currently, there are multiple days and blocks of time when visitation to Cummer is actually FREE (college students: you should be visiting Tuesdays - Fridays for your free days; Tuesday and Friday afternoons and first Saturdays of the month are also free for everyone! Also, first-responders do not pay entry either). But, if you do end up visiting on a full-paying admission day, take comfort knowing that admission is very low... $10 for adults.
We're very happy to have found this hidden gem in Jacksonville. Hopefully, you and yours can also make your way out to show your support.
For more information, please visit: https://www.cummermuseum.org/about