by Mercedes J
Ninety-one years ago, Hugh Taylor Birch gave a lavish wedding gift to his daughter and new son-in-law; the grounds to a tropical 35 acre estate. One year later, the couple began construction to build a unique oceanfront winter retreat for their family. In 1983, the last surviving owner of the home, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett made the largest charitable donation in Florida’s history by donating the home to the Florida Trust for Historic Perseveration.
The home’s architectural theme was intended to capture creativity without the lavishness of comparable homes in the area. Their artistic and eccentric dwelling is now known as The Bonnet House. According to tour guides, the appellation came from the sight of alligators peeking their heads from the waterways along the front of the home. When the alligators surfaced, flowers and lily pads often clung to their heads, resembling a bonnet hat.
Today the historic home is open as a museum and whimsical locale for special events. The Preservation society strives to conserve the integrity of the home by featuring original artwork, furnishings, and décor. Visitors will not only find avant-garde artwork from home owner — the late Frederick Clay Bartlett, yet also various paintings and sculptures the family collected. The grounds house five separate ecosystems in addition to the beautiful gardens and courtyards. Tours of the property are offered Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sundays 11:00am to 4:00pm. To tour only the grounds costs $10. A guided tour is $20.00 and there are special discounts for seniors and young children. From August 12-September 5 you can view the exhibit of artists: Sandra Camper, Barbara Dix, George Dolan, and Sandy Dolan. Check the Bonnet House website for other special events, exhibits, and additional information – www.bonnethouse.org
The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
900 N. Birch Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304