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Looking Back to Look Forward: Part 7

Jun

17

Ada Cummer's Garden, c. 1920s. Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens Archives.

In the early 1930s, the Cummer family reorganized the property in their compound. After the death of Ada Cummer in 1929, her three heirs—siblings Arthur, Waldo, and Mabel—decided to tear down their mother’s house and divide up the property among them, although Mabel Roe elected to live a few blocks away.

Waldo (1875-1936) and Clara (1873-1958) Cummer took over Ada’s former gardens along the riverfront, removed Fisk Street (a short dead-end street that separated their property from Ada’s), and added a new entrance drive to their house.

Jack Spottswood, Waldo and Clara Cummer's Gardens, c. 1930s. Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens Archives.

They engaged the Olmsted Bros. firm to help them harmonize their existing lot with that of Waldo’s mother. William Lyman Phillips of the firm’s Lake Wales office, worked with Clara and Waldo. Phillips is best known for his work at the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden near Miami, and the McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach.

Clara Cummer in her Gardens, 1939. Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens Archives.

The Waldo and Clara Cummer gardens were partially obliterated in the early 1960s, when both homes were demolished to make way for a new museum building to house Ninah Cummer’s art collection.  Today, a fragment of the property is owned by the Museum. A restoration of the property is set to begin in the near future, and once again, the English, Italian, and Olmsted Gardens will be reunited along the St. Johns River.

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