Bonnet House Museum & Gardens-Fort Lauderdale
Visit the stunning Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, located in Fort Lauderdale, for an unforgettable journey back in time.
Get whisked away to the early 20th century, when Florida was one of the nation’s last frontier outposts, and enjoy the era’s genteel living, charm, and whimsy.
Hugh Taylor Birch, a famous Chicago attorney, real estate investor, and naturalist, gifted his daughter Helen Louise and her second husband, Chicago-born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, with a piece of coastal property in South Florida in 1920. Helen’s death from breast cancer in 1925 was followed by Frederic’s marriage to Evelyn Fortune Lilly in 1931. Her time at Bonnet House was a winter tradition until 1995. Like the Bartletts and Birches before them, the estate is now a prestigious house museum with a focus on education and artistic expression as well as the preservation of history and the environment.
It is the goal of Bonnet House, Inc., a philanthropic organization, to preserve and share the legacy of Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett. They do this so that people can come to Bonnet House and be inspired by the art, history, and environment there. Bonnet House: A Legacy of Artistry and Elegance presents the narrative of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens and the artistic contributions of its namesake families through text and lavish color pictures.
The grounds of the Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale are not only historically significant but also include one of the last remaining instances of a native barrier island environment in South Florida. There are five different types of ecosystems on the land: the beach and primary dune of the Atlantic Ocean, a fresh water slough, the secondary dune where the home will be built, mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest. In addition to the indigenous flora, there is a hibiscus garden, a desert garden, and tropical plants in the central courtyard. Evelyn Bartlett loved orchids and collected them avidly. The estate’s Orchid Display House is frequently refreshed with new flowering examples.
Manatees occasionally find sanctuary in the estate’s Boathouse Canal, and the estate itself is a haven for migratory birds, year-round species native to Florida’s wetland and coastal areas, and other wildlife. In 2005, the upper tree canopy of the estate was wiped off by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, causing extensive damage to the grounds. In 2008, work began on a massive restoration project to replant the grounds to their period-appropriate appearance and to protect the property’s historic view corridors from the development of surrounding properties.