For over 100 years the Bonnet House Museum and Garden has remained a beautiful yet hidden gem in the heart of Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. Both tourists and residents unsuspectingly pass by this secret oasis as they stroll by the famous Ft. Lauderdale strand. Case in point, I’ll admit that even after living in South Florida for many years, I only recently discovered The Bonnet House. In all fairness, the grounds cover an impressive 35 acres but the estate itself lies hidden in plain sight, enshrouded behind lush landscaping. Although it sits across from one of the world’s most famous beaches, it’s only accessible through a gated entrance off the main road. Unless you are deliberately visiting, it’s unlikely you’d stumble upon it by accident. So, if you’re looking for something unique to do in Ft.Lauderdale this week(end), keep reading!
Here’s what you’ll discover at The Bonnet House Garden & Museum
- A unique shell collection from around the world displayed from floor to ceiling
- The famed orchid greenhouse
- Original artworks by Mr. & Mrs. Bartlett
- A freshwater lagoon & mangroves
- Swans, turtles, raccoons, birds, iguanas, fish, and the last remaining Brazilian squirrel monkey to roam the property
- Animal sculptures collected by Mrs. Bartlett from Southeast Asia and Africa
- Nature trails
- Lush tropical gardens
- A gift & snack shop with outdoor cafe-style seating
- Original living quarters preserved from the era of Mr. & Mrs. Bartlett
- Tons of Instagram-worthy backdrops!
A brief history of The Bonnet House
The property was purchased in 1895 by Hugh Taylor Birch, a wealthy early settler. However, a shell midden suggests that the Tequesta people inhabited the land as far back as 2,000 B.C. In 1919 Hugh Birch gifted the property to his newlywed daughter, Helen, and her husband, a Chicago based artist named Frederic Clay Bartlett. Shortly after that, the couple began constructing the Bonnet House as a winter retreat where they could pursue their artistic endeavors of writing, poetry, music and artwork. Unfortunately, Helen passed away of breast cancer in 1925. Frederic rarely visited the property after the death of his wife, subsequently. It wasn’t until 1931 that he and his new wife, Evelyn, decided to restore and remodel the house into the whimsical aesthetic you see today. Frederic was a self-taught architect and designed the home as a Caribbean-style plantation with vibrant yellows, blues and coral accents.
The impressive Bonnet House Museum & Garden today
When Frederic died in 1953, Evelyn returned every winter to care for the property. Eventually she gifted The Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983. At the time, her contribution was the largest charitable gift in Florida’s history. One year later it was listed on the National Register of Historic places. However, it still remains open to the public for all to delight in. These days the waterfront veranda and garden host everything from exquisite weddings to corporate parties, special events and in-house workshops. Due to development, this historic landmark stands as one of America’s most endangered sites, so get out there and visit while you can. You don’t want to miss The Bonnet House on your next trip to Fort Lauderdale!
There’s something for the whole family
Many historical properties are family friendly, but the kids aren’t necessarily excited to visit. However, the Bonnet House Museum & Garden has a little bit of everything for the whole family to enjoy. Children can roam the grounds on an exploration to find various animals, plant life and fun collectibles like colorful animal statues, paintings, sea shells and more. Additionally, there’s a stroller friendly nature path that encircles the property where you’ll find giant banyan trees, iguanas, birds, raccoons, or the occasional banana spider. Afterwards you can treat yourselves to freshly made fruity ice creams at the gift shop. It’s a safe bet that the resident squirrel monkey just might be hanging out here to say hello and clean up any goodies left behind.
Location, contact info & pricing
900 North Birch Road Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens Rates:
Adult: $20.00 (Self-Guided Tours)
Adult: $25.00 (Guided Tours)
Ages 6 – 17: $8.00 (No other discount applies)
Children (5 and under): FREE
Broward County Residents with ID: $17.00 (No other discount applies)
Gardens Only: $10.00 (Does not include access to the house. No other discount applies)
*Check the website for current pricing and calendar of events as they may change due to COVID.
Lemon dress: Melloday // Shoes: 27 Edit Briar Platform Sandals (yellow)
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