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The Long Road to Preservation: Bonnet House Museum & Gardens by J. Kent Planck

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Outside of house

For decades, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett were pursued by developers wanting to acquire the Bonnet House estate for residential or commercial development.  Frederic and his second wife Helen Birch had even fled to Europe in 1924 to escape a near-constant barrage of offers.  Such pursuit continued, largely unabated, throughout the 1930s and 40s. In the years immediately preceding Frederic Bartlett’s death in 1953, the City of Fort Lauderdale had been seeking a solution to what was felt to be too-heavy traffic along State Road A1A which by then separated the eastern perimeter of the Bonnet House estate from its beach.

The city’s hope had been to persuade the Bartletts to allow an alternate north-south route to be cut through the middle of their property.  This was to be accomplished by extending the existing Birch Road through the center of the estate. The Bartletts steadfastly resisted, and following Frederic’s death, the city quietly dropped the subject. Although Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett had long managed to fend off efforts to develop the Bonnet House property, Evelyn by the 1970s – widowed and already in her eighties – became increasingly concerned about what would happen to the estate and to Frederic’s creative legacy after her death.  Even though she was still residing comfortably at Bonnet House, the property had become badly frayed around the edges – woodwork damaged and paint peeling, wiring in dangerous need of updating, the grounds heavily overgrown – problems that, though well within Evelyn’s financial ability to correct, were seemingly too extensive for an 80-year-old widow to deal with.  Consequently, Evelyn became increasingly determined to ensure that the magical estate created by her artistic husband be somehow preserved and returned to its former glory.  “There’s nothing left along the shore, you know, nothing except this place, from Miami to Palm Beach,” she would later say.  “I don’t want it to change.” Evelyn began considering possibilities for preservation, and in this effort enlisted the assistance of her financial advisor, Raymond E. George, Senior Vice President at the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago.

Early on, they agreed to change the property’s mailing address to that of the bank in Chicago so that inquiries from developers would be directed to the bank by public records, and Evelyn could thus be spared dealing with continuing advances and proposals. Throughout a more than ten-year preservation effort, Evelyn remained steadfast that, not only must the property be protected from commercial developers, but also that any organization granted ownership and responsibility for preserving it must be forever prevented from making commercial additions incompatible with running the estate as a museum, cultural center or nature preserve. As early as 1972, Ray George asked the Nature Conservancy’s Christopher Dann, Vice President and Director of Development, if there existed precedents of land being conveyed by gift to a municipal government – as one possible and public way to ensure preservation.  Dann said there were, and suggested ways that such a public conveyance of Bonnet House could be made, not only to the city of Fort Lauderdale, but perhaps to the State of Florida because of the property’s proximity to Birch State Park. Other possible candidates for taking Bonnet House in the early 1970s included the American Horticultural Society and the Audubon Society.

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Dillard High School Art Students to Exhibit at Bonnet House

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Dillard High School art students will be exhibiting 10 works of art during Bonnet House’s 7th Annual Orchid, Garden & Gourmet Food Festival.  The exhibition is titled NatureScapes @ Bonnet House–thirty-five acres with five ecosystems, numerous plants, a variety of orchids, and many beautiful objects provided inspiration for this exhibition.  The works will create a visual scrapbook of the diversity of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.  The Exhibit will be on display in the newly renovated Island Theater December 7, 2013 – January 5, 2014 with a reception on Sunday, December 8 at 2pm.

In addition to the unique collection of art, exotic orchids and plants sold by over 40 local vendors, the two-day event will feature gourmet food trucks, libations, orchid care lectures, cooking and gardening demonstrations, a silent auction display, live music and a farmer’s market.

The event will take place Saturday and Sunday, December 7th and 8th from 9:00am to 4:00pm.  The entry fee is $10 for members and $12 for non-members for the fair and grounds and an additional fee of $8 for the self-guided tour through the house. Tickets are available online at www.bonnethouse.org or by calling (954) 703-2614.

Event Features:

Orchid and Exotic Plants – Featuring over 40 vendors including tropicals, fruit trees, bamboo, butterfly garden plants and much more.
Orchid Displays & Silent Auction – Various orchid displays created by the participating vendors will be available for auction.
Gourmet Food Trucks – Food trucks throughout the property offering edible bites.
Dillard High School Art Exhibit- NatureScapes @ Bonnet House. Beautiful works of art inspired by the Bonnet House Estate will be on display in the newly renovated Island Theater.  Reception scheduled for Sunday, December 8 at 2pm.  Exhibition will run Saturday, December 7, 2013– Sunday, January 5, 2014.
Orchid Supplies – Vendors to provide all you need to plant and grow orchids.
Wine, Beer, Mimosa’s & Bloody Mary’s– Enjoy an invigorating mixture as you wander through the garden.
Garden Art – Attractive and unusual orchid and/or garden related items from several vendors.
Lectures – Educational lectures by Home Depot on caring for your garden and how-to demonstrations by Whole Foods Market on preparing healthy meals for the entire family.
Marando Farms Green Market – Herbs, organic fruit and vegetables and helpful tips on gardening will be available.
Self-guided Tours of the House and Grounds – Stroll through the grounds and house at your leisure and experience the charm and beauty of the Bonnet House estate.
Rest Areas – Where you can sit and relax in the shade.
The Bonnet House Museum Shop – Near the main house, offers a unique choice of interesting books, jewelry and array of gift items.
Lots of Free parking – The entrance to the parking lot is on N. Birch Road off of Sunrise Blvd. between A1A and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Bonnet House Seeks Volunteers

By Bonnet House Blog, News No Comments

With five distinct eco-zones and former owners whose interests ranged from art, poetry, and music to natural conservation and organic agriculture, Bonnet House has nurtured eclectic interests for almost ninety-five years.  There’s something for everyone to enjoy here, and the same can be said of our volunteer opportunities.  Looking for something peaceful and quiet?  The courtyard and bridge aren’t that way all the time, but greeting guests there will give you ample opportunity (most days!) to enjoy the natural habitat and gardens.  How about something more active with lots of visitor interaction, reading an audience, and telling a great story?  Guiding house tours might be for you.  How about sales?  The Museum Shop is always in need of extra help.  And no matter which role you choose, you’ll be interacting with other like-minded volunteers who have more passion and interest for the remarkable Bonnet House estate than you can imagine.

To learn more about the many volunteer opportunities at Bonnet House, visit www.bonnethouse.org/opportunities.

Fall is a Good Time to Review Estate Plans…or Create One

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No one likes to think of his or her passing from this world, but death is an event that we all will share in common sooner or hopefully, much later.  Putting together an estate plan can seem daunting, but it is really a fairly simple process for most people.  Not only will it relieve family and friends of sometimes difficult decisions, it is also an empowering process that allows one the opportunity to take control of how assets accumulated in life will pass.  As you begin gathering year end documents for the tax season, fall is also a good time to revisit estate plans—particularly if there has been a major life event in the past year—or to create one if you are currently without a will and/or trust.  If Bonnet House has meant something to you during life, consider leaving a bequest in your estate plan.  For sample language for a bequest to share with your attorney, contact Patrick Shavloske at 954-703-2603 or [email protected].

Bonnet House Opens World of Art and Science to Youth

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Bonnet House isn’t just for adults and area visitors.  The museum takes its role as an educator of the next generation very seriously, and thanks to Director of Education and Volunteer Programs Linda Schaller and our engaging education volunteers, Bonnet House has a meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of area youth each year.

In the summer of 2013, Bonnet House partnered with the Oscar Thomas Foundation to present programming about the art of the Bartletts and the natural sciences for a local youth group.  Volunteer Dane Jensen stepped into the role of Hugh Taylor Birch, describing what brought this important person to South Florida and why he developed such a passion for the barrier island while Alliance Founding Member Susan Lochrie took the group on a tour through the house.  This program was made possible through a grant from the BBX Capital Foundation and a special thanks goes to Bonnet House Fine Artist Barbie-Lynn Pearson for capturing images of this wonderful day at the museum.

Bonnet House offers youth programs year round for schools, home schooling groups, and Girl and Boy Scout troops.  Education programs are tailored for each group’s own needs and serve youth ages 5 through 18.  More information about school programs may be found at www.bonnethouse.org/school-programs or by calling 954-703-2606.

Movie Night sponsored by Whole Foods Market

By Bonnet House Blog, Events No Comments

Elf Poster

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens will be hosting a movie night on the lawn presented by Whole Foods Market on Thursday, December 12 at 7:00pm. The featured movie will be Elf with Will Ferrell. Need an excuse to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful Bonnet House Estate? How about a sunset picnic and movie? Bring your beach chair and snacks, Bonnet House will provide beer, wine and free popcorn. The event will take place on the Hibiscus Garden lawn near the Museum Shop, entrance is through the Welcome Center. Don’t miss a wonderful excuse to enjoy cool winter nights with family and friends — come out for this fun event at Bonnet House, compliments of Whole Foods Market Fort Lauderdale! Need directions? The street address for Bonnet House Museum & Gardens — 900 North Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304.  Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children.

Tickets are available online at https://bonnethouse.org/calendar/ or by calling (954) 703-2614 or emailing [email protected].

movie 2 small movie small

 

Orchid, Garden & Gourmet Food Festival

By Bonnet House Blog, Events No Comments

300x150_OrchidFestWebBannerNoDates 

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens will be blooming during its Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival featuring the 7th Annual Orchid and Exotic Plant Sale December 7th and 8th from 9:00am to 4:00pm! With free parking and a $10 entry fee for members and $12 fee for non-members- plant lovers and orchid enthusiasts will have the opportunity to see and buy an exclusive selection of orchids and exotic plants.

In addition to the unique collection of exotic orchids and plants sold by over 40 local vendors, the two-day event will feature gourmet food trucks, libations, orchid care lectures, cooking and gardening demonstrations, a silent auction display, live music and a farmer’s market.

The event will take place Saturday and Sunday, December 7th and 8th from 9:00am to 4:00pm.  The entry fee is $10 for members and $12 for non-members for the fair and grounds and an additional fee of $8 for the self-guided tour through the house. Tickets will be available online at www.bonnethouse.org beginning in October.

Event Features:

Orchid Displays & Silent Auction – Various orchid displays created by the participating vendors will be available for auction.
Gourmet Food Trucks – Food trucks throughout the property offering edible bites.
Wine, Beer, Mimosa’s & Bloody Mary’s– Enjoy an invigorating mixture as you wander through the garden.
Orchid and Exotic Plants – Featuring over 40 vendors including tropicals, fruit trees, bamboo, butterfly garden plants and much more.
Orchid Supplies – Vendors to provide all you need to plant and grow orchids.
Garden Art – Attractive and unusual orchid and/or garden related items from several vendors.
Lectures – Educational lectures by Home Depot on caring for your garden and how-to demonstrations by Whole Foods Market on preparing healthy meals for the entire family.
Dillard High School Art Exhibit- NatureScapes @ Bonnet House. Beautiful works of art inspired by the Bonnet House Estate will be on display in the newly renovated Island Theater.  Reception scheduled for Sunday, December 8 at 2pm.  Exhibition will run Saturday, December 7, 2013– Sunday, January 5, 2014.
Marando Farms Green Market – Herbs, organic fruit and vegetables and helpful tips on gardening will be available.
Self-guided Tours of the House and Grounds – Stroll through the grounds and house at your leisure and experience the charm and beauty of the Bonnet House estate.
Rest Areas – Where you can sit and relax in the shade.
The Bonnet House Museum Shop – Near the main house, offers a unique choice of interesting books, jewelry and array of gift items.
Lots of Free parking – The entrance to the parking lot is on N. Birch Road off of Sunrise Blvd. between A1A and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Newly added Behind the Scenes Tours

By Bonnet House Blog, News, Uncategorized No Comments

BehindtheScenesR3

Visitors will participate in a VIP experience at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens beginning Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2pm. Bonnet House will be offering new Behind the Scenes – Private Living Quarters Tours. Take a sneak peek inside normally-closed areas of Evelyn and Frederic Bartlett’s private living quarters. Tours are led by our seasoned Bonnet House docents and will be offered the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 2pm – 3pm for only $20 per person. Visitors will enjoy rooms not seen on our other tours.

The tour is offered in groups of 10 to allow for questions and discussion. Limited reservations available, pre-registration required. Please note, the ability to climb stairs is necessary to fully participate in the tour.  A video presentation at ground level will accommodate those guests unable to climb stairs.

Visit us at https://bonnethouse.org/hours-fees/ or contact Linda Schaller at (954) 703-2606 or [email protected]

Best Fort Lauderdale Historic Sites to Visit

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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

New Orchid Greenhouse Tours Begin October 8

By Bonnet House Blog, News No Comments

Beginning October 8, 2013, Bonnet House will be offering special Orchid Greenhouse Tours with Orchid Curator Tom Wells.  These tours have never been offered before, the greenhouses and display house are rarely open to the public. The tours will be offered the second Tuesday of each month from 11am – 12pm for only $20 per person. Our greenhouses and display house hold approximately 1,200 plants in various stages of development. Our Bonnet House Orchid Curator will show you around our greenhouses and discuss how our orchids are bred and cultivated (including our impressive seedling program).  A treat for orchid enthusiasts and novices! Orchid seedlings will be available for purchase.

The tour is offered in groups of 15 to allow for questions and discussion. Limited reservations available, pre-registration is required.  Visit us at https://bonnethouse.org/hours-fees/ or contact Linda Schaller at (954) 703-2606 or [email protected].

orchid