Recently I visited the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale and it felt like I had be transported back to the another era… and possibly even another planet. Lush tropical landscape fully encapsulated the estate while native Floridian lizards sunned themselves in the light peaking through the palms. Brilliant bright yellow paint glistened off of the Bonnet House -trimmed with beautiful royal blue drew my eyes near.
Construction beginning in 1920 spanned over 20 years by Frederic Clay Bartlett, an American artist from Chicago, and his wife Helen Birch Bartlett. Fredric created his interpretation of a Caribbean-style plantation house and the Bonnet House was named after the bonnet lily that grows on the property. The property was initially a wedding gift given by Hugh Taylor Burch, Helen’s father. The newlywed couple traveled the world and were avid art collectors which is reflected in the home and makes the tour of the Bonnet House that more intriguing. A interesting fact about the construction of this estate is that the art studio in the home was the first building to be completed, naturally, given the couples love of art.
Six years after Helen Birch Bartlett’s death in 1925, Frederic remarried to Evelyn Fortune Lilly. There were many interesting things about Evelyn, but the one that stands out the most was her pet monkeys. Evelyn acquired pet monkeys after a local club, LeClub, who had 30 to 40 monkeys at the establishment closed. The monkeys were released and sought refuge at the Bonnet House. It is rumored that today there are still a monkey or two roaming the property.
The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens spans 35.4 acres, including 100 feet of beach, located on the coastal barrier island protected by the mainland from tides. The Bonnet House estate and the Taylor Birch State Park are a final reminder of the natural environment that made up the barrier islands in 1920. In 2015, the estate acquired a total of 700 feet of beach front to host special private events and weddings without having to get special permission from the city.
Today the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens provides a rich piece of history unique to Fort Lauderdale and is also a venue for weddings and special events. If you are planning to visit Fort Lauderdale stop by the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens for a whimsical tour and then take a long walk up the beach imagining what it might have been like in 1920 and living at the Bonnet Estate.