The Cummers came from a long line of lumber barons, whose businesses stretched through Canada, Michigan, Virginia, and Florida. Wellington Willson Cummer (1846-1909) relocated the family from Morley, Michigan to Jacksonville, Florida and founded the Cummer Lumber Company in 1896. They owned a modern sawmill and vast timber tracts in Baker, Alachua and Levy Counties, as well as a phosphate plant at Newberry, Florida. These various properties were connected by the Jacksonville & Southwestern Railroad, a one hundred-mile railroad line built by the Cummers that later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Pine, cypress, oak, and phosphate rock were brought by train to Jacksonville and shipped from the Cummer docks. Not only was the Cummer lumber company one of the largest employers in Jacksonville during the 1900s, the family was the largest private landowner in the state, with more than 500,000 acres.
Wellington and his wife, Mary Ada Gerrish, built their Greek Revival house at 801 Riverside Avenue in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville in 1897, the same year their son, Arthur, married Ninah May Holden in Michigan City, Indiana.