When you step into the forest, time stops. It’s meant to be that way. While only two and a half acres, undulating across ancient dunes, the gardens that surround the Ormond Memorial Art Museum seem so much larger.
Designed by noted Chicago landscape architect Henry Stockman in the 1940s, the Ormond Memorial Gardens were constructed with the labor of men returning from World War II. Their mission here was to create a place of beauty to memorialize their friends who had fallen on the battlefield.
Address: 78 East Granada Blvd, Ormond Beach
Restrooms: Inside the Art Museum
Land Manager: Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens
Gardens open daily sunrise-sunset.
Museum open Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat-Sun 12-4. $2 donation.
From Interstate 95 or US 1 in Ormond Beach, follow SR 40 east. After you cross the Intracoastal Waterway and pass The Casements, look for the art museum on the right at the next street.
Go one more block and make a right to drive around to the back of the gardens for the parking lot. Parking is free.
This is not your typical city garden. There are no wide open spaces, save a smidgen of grass around a fountain in front of the Art Museum. It is all about intimacy.
Twisty, winding pathways slip through stands of bamboo and thickets of palms. Turtles bask on the edges of ponds. A waterfall spills down a slope, its soothing sound countering the traffic noise on nearby Granada Boulevard.
Staircases lead up and over slopes and onto overlooks, making use of the ancient dunes that run along the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. A large gazebo is home to The Labyrinth Walk, a place for walking meditation in this public green space.
While the gardens’ genesis was with World War II, it persisted. There are memorials to more modern veterans, a poignant one staged near a pond not far from the museum.
For more than 30 years, gardener Janett Taylor carefully tended the flower beds and looked after the fundamentals of the garden, even after she retired. She is still the resident Garden Artisan, making sure everything is just so.
At the art museum, nature becomes art. Spin the bowlful of pansies and look at it through the scope to see how perspective changes everything. You’ll find a few clips of the result in our video of the gardens.
Replacing a city office that was once on the corner, the Ormond Memorial Art Museum – originally called the Ormond War Memorial Gallery – also opened its doors in 1946.
It was a community effort, built with the gardens and around a challenge by artist Malcolm Fraser, who offered a collection of 56 pieces of his work to a community that would built an art museum that honored veterans.
Known for his magazine and novel illustrations, Fraser died a few years after the gallery opened. His widow Mary, also an artist, donated another 10 of his paintings and a piece of her sculpture, The Peacock Fountain.
Although Fraser’s intent was to memorialize fellow veterans, the gallery also serves as a memorial to his work, and to engaging the public with art and nature.
We saw a steady stream of young people and their parents coming in and out of the building for summer workshops, and an exhibit in place featuring artists who use recycled and salvaged materials.
Exhibits change several times a year. The gardens, with their season blooms tucked among tropical plantings, are ever-changing themselves. There is always a reason to visit.
The Emmons Cottage
That cute little cottage adjoining the parking lot? It’s the oldest home in Ormond Beach, moved here from its original location and renovated.
Built in 1885 of heart pine, the Emmons Cottage used to sit along the Halifax River, but as that land grew too valuable, it was slated for demolition. Locals rallied around its preservation, and now it serves as an environmental and art education center for young students.
Just a block west along Granada Blvd (SR 40), on the same side of the highway, The Casements sweeps you back in time to the days of the wealthy robber barons.
When John D. Rockefeller had The Casements renovated in 1918 to meet his needs, he was the head of Standard Oil and considered the richest man on earth. But he wasn’t happy that the Ormond Hotel overcharged him for his stay the season before because of his wealth. He arranged to have his own winter residence across the street. Locals knew him as “Neighbor John.”
Docents lead tours Mon-Sat through the historic three-story home, which has been partially converted into a community center. The top floor is filled with a museum of historic Boy Scout memorabilia.