Best Fort Lauderdale Historic Sites to Visit

By September 24, 2013 Bonnet House Blog

Bonnet House Museum & Garden History Photo

Best Fort Lauderdale Historic Sites to Visit – Tourist Attractions in Fort lauderdale Florida.

Historic Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is truly unique among the nation’s historic houses and gardens – and perhaps its most beautiful. In this bright and airy plantation-style house, located in a 35-acre slice of breathtaking waterfront property, visitors find themselves magically transported to the days when Florida was one of the nation’s last frontier outposts. Its story is every bit as magical as the house itself.

Attorney and Standard Oil industrialist Hugh Taylor Birch also prized nature and sought refuge from a bustling Chicago in what was a mostly unsettled South Florida in 1898.  Caught in a storm off the coast, he came ashore and made his way to the Stranahan trading post for ten days. There, he fell in love with the untamed South Florida wilderness and later purchased acres of the area’s undeveloped beachfront land. Bonnet House’s modern history began in 1919, when Birch gave the Bonnet House property as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Frederic Clay Bartlett, who had forsaken his family’s successful hardware business to become a well-respected artist and art collector. Frederic and Helen began construction of Bonnet House in 1920, eager for a winter retreat where Frederic could pursue his artwork and Helen could compose music and poetry.

After tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from breast cancer, Frederic’s visits to Bonnet House then became sporadic until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. With this marriage, a renaissance occurred on the site as Frederic and Evelyn entered a prolific period of embellishing Bonnet House with the decorative elements that delight visitors to this day. Construction at Bonnet House is notable in several respects. Concrete blocks were made on site, and wrought-iron railing surrounding the second story veranda and open galleries of the main house were imported from New Orleans. Bartlett’s vivid artistry is fully reflected throughout the house, as he painted faux marble floors, and murals on walls and wood ceilings in major rooms. A cloister around a court connects an art studio and a music studio to the main house. Extensive areas of native vegetation including a hardwood hammock were preserved, and a marshy area to the east of the house was transformed into lagoons. The gardens and winding nature trails surrounding the house, and the wildlife inhabiting the grounds, are every bit as impressive, with swans and other water fowl gliding in the ponds, and raccoons and monkeys – yes, South American squirrel monkeys – also part of the ambiance.

Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to return each winter. In 1983, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett gave Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Her contribution—at the time, the largest charitable gift in Florida history—ensured that the site would be preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations. Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been declared a historic landmark by the City of Fort Lauderdale.

A visit to South Florida is truly not complete without time spent at beautiful, historic Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. The story told here spans and parallels a wide swath of American history and makes a visit both to these pages and to the estate a uniquely educational and entertaining experience. Bonnet House is located at 900 North Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304. For more information and details, please call (954) 563-5393 or visit BonnetHouse.org.

Tourist Attractions in Fort lauderdale Florida | Best Fort Lauderdale Historic Sites to Visit

One Comment

  • Jorge says:

    We love what you guys are doing with the city of Fort Lauderdale! Your musem and garden are fantastic and it is becoming a huge magnet tourism and business. Our Search Eclipse SEO office is located close by an we enjoy walking over to the gardens for a nice relaxing afternoon. Keep up the good work!

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