Bonnet House Museum and Gardens Tour Fort Lauderdale
Bonnet House (named for the bonnet lily that grows here) was designed by Frederick Clay Bartlett, an American artist from Chicago, Illinois. The land was given to Frederick and his wife Helen by her father, Hugh Taylor Birch, as a wedding gift. Construction on the estate began in 1920 and continued for more than 20 years. Frederic and Helen traveled extensively and were avid art collectors. Six years after Helen’s death in 1925, Frederick married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. Bonnet house remains much as it was in the 1930s and 1940s when Frederick and Evelyn created the unique blend of art and whimsy that delights us today. Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to return each winter. In 1983, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett gave Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Her contribution at the time, the largest charitable gift in Florida history ensured that the site would be preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is accredited by the American Association of Museums. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1984 and declared a historic landmark by the City of Fort Lauderdale in 2002. In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included Bonnet House in its Save America’s Treasures program. Due to the threat posed by inappropriately massive nearby development, the National Trust and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation designated listed Bonnet House as one of America’s 11 most endangered sites in 2008.
Come and see where natural surroundings, art, and architecture converge to bring a historic home to life.
More information at BonnetHouse.org
By the time early settler Hugh Taylor Birch purchased the Bonnet House site in 1895, the grounds had already witnessed 4,000 years of Florida history. A shell heap left by the Tequesta people indicates that human activity on the site dates back to 2,000 B.C. while further archaeological evidence suggests that the grounds saw one of the first sites of Spanish contact with the New World. A walk along the nature trail allows you to step back in time and experience a rare piece of old South Florida. In visiting here, you’ll walk up the paths of the Birch and Bartlett families and cross the past of much earlier inhabitants of this area such as the Tequesta people, who occupy these coastal areas from 2000 BC to 1700 AD.
Bonnet House is situated on the coastal barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal waterway to the west. Barrier islands protect the mainland from the impact of the ocean tides and currents and provide habitat for many kinds of wildlife. The vast majority of the natural environment of the barrier island has been lost today to commercial development. The bonnet house estate and nearby Hugh Taylor Birch State Park are significant remnants of this coastal wilderness in Broward County.
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