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C hicago-born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett created Bonnet House in 1920 on South Florida oceanfront land given to him and his second wife, Helen Louise Birch, by her father, Hugh Taylor Birch, a prominent Chicago attorney, real estate investor, and naturalist. Tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from breast cancer and in 1931 Frederic married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. She spent winters at Bonnet House until 1995. Today, the estate is a preeminent house museum dedicated not only to historic and environmental preservation, but also to learning and creative expression – much like the Bartletts and Birches themselves.

In both words and lush color photography, Bonnet House: A Legacy of Artistry and Elegance, tells the story of both Bonnet House Museum & Gardens and the creativity of these families. Click here to view sample pages.

Bonnet House, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501c3, whose mission is to celebrate the story of Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, we preserve the art, history and nature of Bonnet House, providing inspiration and respite for all.

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B y 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. Bonnet House’s modern history began when Birch gave the Bonnet House property as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919. Upon Helen’s death, Frederic’s visits to Bonnet House became sporadic until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. Together they embellished Bonnet House with the decorative elements that delight visitors to this day.

Fort Lauderdale Historic Art Museum, Gallery, and Studio

F rederic Clay Bartlett graduated from Munich’s prestigious Royal Academy in 1895 and returned to a prolific and prosperous career in the United States.  He worked on mural projects in conjunction with American architects and his easel work can today be found in the best museums including the Carnegie Institute and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Examples of his easel art are displayed in the Bonnet House studio and Frederic’s murals and faux painting can be found throughout the Main House.
With little formal training but much encouragement from Frederic, Evelyn Fortune Lilly began painting in 1932.  For six years, she painted prolifically, and her work was featured in well-received gallery exhibits in Boston, New York, and Indianapolis. Evelyn’s works are today displayed in Bonnet House’s Carl J. Weinhardt Gallery.
Learn more | View Art Gallery

Tropical Tranquility – Historic South Florida

I n addition to their historic significance, the Bonnet House grounds encompass one of the last examples in South Florida of a native barrier island habitat. Five distinct ecosystems can be found on the property including the Atlantic Ocean beach and primary dune, a fresh water slough, the secondary dune which includes the house site, mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest.
Learn more | View Gardens Gallery