The future of our beloved Bonnet House is at risk. We need your support to ensure management and revenue of the beautiful estate remains local, just as owner Evelyn Bartlett intended when she gifted this South Florida treasure to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983.
The Florida Trust has broken the trust of Bonnet House and people of Broward County who take pride in this unique property.
Just a few years after Mrs. Bartlett made her generous gift, the Florida Trust began regularly diverting revenue from the estate to fund its own growing administrative costs and support its other operations in the state. To date, $1.8 million in revenue has been taken from Bonnet House and spent elsewhere — funds that could have been used to restore and maintain this Fort Lauderdale treasure.
The Bonnet House Board has repeatedly tried — in good faith — to work with the Florida Trust to reach a solution, while carrying out Mrs. Bartlett’s explicit instructions that her “contributions were to only benefit Bonnet House and not be used to support the Florida Trust.” Mediation this summer seemed to be progressing, until September 26th when the Florida Trust suddenly broke off talks, declared an impasse, and notified Bonnet House that it intended to take 100% control of the property’s management and all of the revenue generated by the estate.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Calling all South Florida residents and organizations!
The Florida Trust can’t be trusted to protect Bonnet House’s legacy.
We need YOUR help in getting the word out — the future of Bonnet House is at stake. Your support and advocacy to retain local management and 100% of the estate’s revenue are critical to the long-term sustainability of this unique and historic landmark.
Join us in preserving Bonnet House by downloading and sharing digital resources to help inform your neighbors, business leaders, elected officials, and beyond about this important issue. You have the option to click the Download button where you will choose an image or video, download it to your computer, and then upload the image or video to your Facebook page with an accompanying caption from below.
Watch our October 3rd News Conference
Captions You Can Share
After you’ve chosen an image or video/Using the video from the downloaded folder, copy and paste your favorite caption (or create your own using the campaign hashtag) into the post generator on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
- Florida Trust has broken trust with Bonnet House and the people of Florida! We need YOUR help to #PreserveBonnetHouse and ensure this historic property remains under local care. Learn more at PreserveBonnetHouse.org.
- The Florida Trust can’t be trusted to protect Bonnet House’s legacy! Learn how you can help us #PreserveBonnetHouse … BEFORE it’s too late: PreserveBonnetHouse.org
- The future of Bonnet House is under threat! The Florida Trust is trying to seize full control over this beloved estate … for its own financial gain. We must keep Bonnet House in local hands — Learn how you can help at PreserveBonnetHouse.org. #PreserveBonnetHouse
Links You Can Share
You also have the option to share Bonnet House’s Facebook posts by clicking one of the links below and clicking ‘Share’ on the post:
Voice Your Support
Tell your family and friends about the importance of keeping Bonnet House under local control and management.
Share PreserveBonnetHouse.org for information about the issue.
Tell the National Trust for Historic Preservation it is time to take action, exercise the rights Mrs. Bartlett gave them, and take over the deed to Bonnet House.
Click here to contact the National Trust.
Tell the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation to stand down and do what’s right for Bonnet House.
Click here to contact the Florida Trust.
Ask your elected officials in the State House, State Senate, and the Governor’s Office to urge the Florida Trust to do what’s right for Bonnet House by keeping management in the experienced hands of Bonnet House, Inc. and allow the revenue it generates to stay with Bonnet House.
Click here to find out who represents you in Tallahassee.
Click here to email Governor DeSantis.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is the Florida Trust’s involvement with Bonnet House?
In 1983, owner Evelyn Fortune Bartlett gifted Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation to preserve it for future generations. The Florida Trust, which is headquartered in Tallahassee, owns the Fort Lauderdale estate’s buildings and land. The agreement called for the organization to provide “significant administrative services” however it contributes no operational oversight or financial support to the estate.
Q: Does the National Trust for Historic Preservation have a role in Bonnet House?
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., voluntarily oversees the Florida Trust’s stewardship of Bonnet House. The estate was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Q: What is Bonnet House, Inc.?
Bonnet House, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), whose mission is to preserve this unique historic estate, which was created in 1920. Bonnet House, Inc. was formed in 1990 to take over day-to-day property management, when the Florida Trust was unable to properly care for and manage the estate. Florida Trust owns the estate’s buildings and the property, but Bonnet House, Inc. owns the contents including the art, artifacts, and furniture.
Q: How is Bonnet House currently funded?
Funding is provided in part by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council. Support for the educational programs is provided in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. Bonnet House receives revenue from ticket sales and group tours, memberships, weddings and private events, and gift shop sales. Donors have generously supported Bonnet House yearly and sponsored its programs. The Florida Division of Historical Resources has invested over $1 million in Bonnet House through its Special Category grant program that funds restoration efforts.
Q: How much financial support does the Florida Trust provide to Bonnet House?
None. In the 36 years that Florida Trust has owned Bonnet House, it has never provided financial support to help preserve, maintain, or restore the estate. After Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Irma struck South Florida, the Florida Trust provided no financial assistance to repair storm damage.
Q: How much money does the Florida Trust take from Bonnet House?
Florida Trust takes about $150,000 per year, which comprises about 64% of its budget. It takes 20% of all admissions, 20% net from weddings and private events, 20% net from certain gift shop sales, and $25 of every Bonnet House membership. Since 1995, Florida Trust has taken more than $1.8 million from Bonnet House.
Q: If Bonnet House was able to retain all of its revenue instead of diverting a significant sum to the Florida Trust, how would it use those funds?
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is nearly a century old and requires continuous and expensive restoration and maintenance to prevent it from deteriorating beyond repair. Bonnet House, Inc. has capital needs that additional revenue would help address. Among them: the parking lot needs significant improvement, the second floor lacks climate control, the property has no emergency generator to help safeguard the collection after storm-related power outages, and roofs on several buildings are reaching the end of their usable life and need to be replaced. Roof replacement alone would exceed $500,000.
Q: How do you know it was Mrs. Bartlett’s intention to have the revenue of Bonnet House used only for the estate?
When the Florida Trust began diverting revenue from Bonnet House, Mrs. Bartlett wrote letters to the organization, expressing anger that her wishes were not being honored and that she did not give Bonnet House to support the Florida Trust.
Q: What has Bonnet House done to resolve this issue with the Florida Trust?
The Bonnet House Board has repeatedly tried to work — in good faith — with the Florida Trust to protect this beloved landmark, secure its financial future, and honor Mrs. Bartlett’s true intent and wishes. The Florida Trust finally agreed to mediation and the Bonnet House Board felt a resolution was well within reach. But on September 26, 2019, the Florida Trust inexplicably declared a mediation impasse, and sent a letter to the Bonnet House Board giving them 48 hours to turn over the keys to the estate, and hand over all operating income and control of the Bonnet House bank accounts. As a result of the Trust’s unwillingness to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, the Preserve Bonnet House campaign was launched.
Q: I heard that Bonnet House is planning to build a restaurant on the property or sell some of its land for high-rise development. Is that true?
No. There are no plans for commercial development on the Bonnet House property at this time, although Mrs. Bartlett did make provisions for limited development, but only if needed to support Bonnet House. In 2013, with the Florida Trust’s approval, Bonnet House explored the feasibility of developing an onsite restaurant. After thorough research, it was determined that the plan was not practical and the idea was abandoned. This exploration took place in part because of the amount of money leaving Bonnet House and going to the Florida Trust.
Q: What has been the community’s reaction to this issue?
Bonnet House has received a tremendous outpouring of support locally and across the country since the Preserve Bonnet House campaign was launched. We sincerely thank our members, volunteers, donors, community leaders, residents, and visitors for taking action to help protect this beloved estate.
Q: Where do elected officials stand on this dispute?
Many local and state elected officials stand in solidarity with us and have worked on Bonnet House’s behalf to keep care and management of the estate under local control.
On October 11, 2019, Representatives Kristin Jacobs and Chip LaMarca led the Broward County legislative delegation in sending this letter to the Florida Trust expressing deep concern and requesting documentation that shows how the Florida Trust uses funds collected from Bonnet House.
On October 14, 2019, Bonnet House provided Representative Jacobs with additional context on the exchange between Mayor Trantalis and the Florida Trust. Read the email here.
Q: Can I still tour Bonnet House Museum & Gardens while this issue is being addressed?
Yes. Bonnet House Museum & Gardens warmly welcomes visitors Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Q: Will Bonnet House’s public events, including orchid care classes and Holiday Magic, still be held?
Absolutely. We continue to offer a full array of exciting events and fun activities for all ages, including our popular Holiday Magic which kicks off our 100th-anniversary celebration on December 6th. New events are being added all the time, so please check our events calendar frequently.
Q: Are corporate events and weddings still being booked and taking place as scheduled? Yes! Rest assured, all private events and celebrations will take place as scheduled. We continue to accept new bookings for weddings, corporate events, and private celebrations. To learn more, call (954) 703-2608 or email [email protected].
The bitter battle for Bonnet House: A greedy grab for profit, power, and property, Florida Politics, 10/01/2019
Bonnet House and state trust to work on truce, Sun-Sentinel, 10/10/2019
A broken trust: Save Bonnet House from a hostile takeover | Editorial, Sun-Sentinel, 10/18/2019