Bonnet House Reveals Truth About Florida’s Past

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Here at Bonnet House, one of the most important parts of our mission involves preserving our history and educating the public about South Florida’s unique and fascinating role in the discovery and colonization of North America. While there is quite a bit we already know about the early Spanish and European settlers,  there is still so much that is being learned and uncovered to this day. Bonnet House is proud to play a pivotal role in some of the more recent discoveries that have led experts to believe that the history of Florida we previously understood is not what it seems.

Most have been taught that Florida was discovered in 1513 by Ponce De Leon on his quest to find the famous Fountain of Youth. However, authors Todd Turrell and Brian Schmitt recently published a book titled “The Florida Keys – A History Through Maps,” presenting compelling evidence suggesting that European explorers arrived in Florida before Ponce De Leon. The authors presented two lines of evidence, consisting of three European made maps that predate Ponce de Leon’s landing, and a significant archaeological discovery uncovered right here at the Bonnet House estate.

The first and earliest of the maps was created by Juan de La Cosa in the year 1500 (thirteen years before Ponce de Leon is recorded to have discovered and named Florida) that depicts vast lands north of Cuba and is acknowledged as the earliest undisputed representation of the Americas. The second map, created in 1502 and called the ‘Cantino Planisphere,’ depicts in detail the peninsula of Florida eleven years prior to the 1513 landing of Ponce de Leon. The third, a 1511 Peter Martyr map, is the first printed map devoted to the New World depicting the lands north of the Bahamas and Cuba, and also demonstrates that Europeans had explored and mapped Florida before Ponce de Leon.

The archaeological evidence of the pre Ponce de Leon discovery of Florida was discovered in 1984 at our very own Bonnet House Estate by archaeologist and coauthor Robert Carr of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy. The conch shells unearthed on our estate were a mystery because rather than piercing the shell with a small hole at the crown in the manner used by the indigenous people and the Spanish, who were well acquainted with indigenous practices, they had been opened by breaking large holes into the shell wall. One shell had been pierced by a metal sword or knife, tools used by Europeans (see photo above of a conch shell with a non-Indian break).

“Radiocarbon dates of the shell indicated that the mollusk meal had been consumed in the fifteen century,” says Carr. “The evidence indicates they were opened by people who were not Spanish, but who likely arrived in South Florida from the north along the Atlantic coast or had sailed directly from Europe. This could be evidence of explorer and navigator John Cabot ‘s voyage of 1497 which reportedly sailed from Canada to as far south as the Florida Keys.”

Here at Bonnet House, we couldn’t be more proud to have played a role in this important discovery. We have these now famous conch shells on display in the Caretakers Cottage with an explanatory label and others can be viewed in the antique cabinet in our Studio. If you’re interested in viewing these conchs and experiencing all that our beautiful estate has to offer, you can purchase discounted admission tickets to use when we reopen with this link by using the coupon code “Covid19.”

To take a virtual tour of our grounds, including the shell midden, watch this video.

Beach Front/Ocean Front Wedding Venue In Fort Lauderdale

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Here at Bonnet House we love love! Wedding ceremonies and receptions are among our favorite events that are hosted here at the Bonnet House historic estate.  Our venue is perfect for couples interested in celebrating their love and commitment to each other in a warm, outdoor setting. Spanning 35 acres, Bonnet House offers a variety of exquisite settings, each uniquely beautiful in its own way. Whether you are planning a close, intimate gathering or a grand and lavish affair, Bonnet House sets the scene for romance and timeless memories. With its beautiful tropical and subtropical plants and its proximity to downtown Fort  Lauderdale, Bonnet House has become a favorite destination for couples across the world.

Often referred to as “Fort Lauderdale’s Best Kept Secret,” Bonnet House offers an incredibly unique environment to celebrate your big day. Not only do we have a beautiful historic estate, we also have the ability to host beach front ceremonies. Getting married on the beach is truly a memorable experience for both the happy couple and their guests. Our ocean front estate has everything you will need for your perfect private wedding location.

Our estate offers a variety of services and amenities to help our guests make the most of their special day. The use of photography is permitted two hours before the wedding ceremony begins. Brides also have the ability to use the private upstairs bridal suite, and will have access to a personal bridal assistant. Bonnet House will even provide a ceremony and front door hostess, as well as complimentary tram service for guests to be escorted from the free parking lot to the main house.

If you are interested in hosting a water front wedding that will create lasting memories for you and your guests, consider hosting your wedding ceremony and reception at Bonnet House’s beautiful historic estate. For more information about your wedding or  reception, contact David Woodin at [email protected] or call at (954) 703-2608.

You can also take a virtual tour of our various wedding locations with special appearances from Events Manager, David Wooden. Click on links below to enjoy virtual wedding tours of the estate.

Wedding Tour Intro

Tour of  the Allee/Ceremony Site

Tour of the Courtyard

Tour of the Veranda