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Preserving Bonnet House

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The Bonnet House property was purchased in 1895 by Hugh Taylor Birch. While the property had already experienced over 4,000 years of Florida history at the time it was purchased, the state of Florida looked nothing like it does today. Although much time has passed, the Bonnet House property still encompasses one of the last examples in South Florida of a native barrier island habitat. We are fortunate to be one of the few places in Florida to include five distinct ecosystems and an abundance of native plants and wildlife.

These five unique ecosystems include the Atlantic Ocean beach and primary dune, a freshwater slough, the secondary dune which includes the house site, mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest. To complement the natural vegetation, the grounds also contain a Desert Garden composed of arid plantings, a hibiscus garden, and the main courtyard planted with tropical vegetation.

Our stunning variety of tropical vegetation includes but is not limited to mangroves, saw palmetto, blue porterweed, wild coffee, bougainvillea, and plumeria. Bonnet House also showcases various blooming examples of orchids in our greenhouses and throughout the estate all year round.

If you are interested in learning more about our fascinating ecosystems, and specific plant varieties, we encourage you to participate in our Education Programs . Our Educational Programming enlivens our mission statement and supports Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards by offering onsite classes, field trips, and virtual lessons in Florida history, nature, art, and design.
These programs:
● Integrate character education
● Involve hands-on activities
● Provide various choices of curriculum enrichment
● Conform to the National Trust for Historic Preservation curriculum guidelines

Here at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, we pride ourselves on providing unique and interesting opportunities for our guests to learn more about our estate, its owners, and Florida’s beautiful ecosystems. But none of this would be possible without our passionate and engaging volunteers. These dedicated individuals help us to educate guests, and care for our many species of plants. Our volunteers are truly the heart and soul of Bonnet House and they make all of our goals come to fruition.

Whether it’s everyday operations, special evening events, or gardening, Bonnet House couldn’t operate as it does without our team of volunteers. Volunteers have a variety of different opportunities to serve at Bonnet House. If you have any questions or wish to join our team of volunteers at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, please call (954) 703-2606 or click here.

Preserving Bonnet House through our Youth

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Evelyn Bartlett stated that she never wanted Bonnet House to change.  Neither do those of us who support the beauty and spontaneity of Bonnet House through our work, service, tranquil visits, and colorful inspiration.  Some of the same things that spark our own playful natures are reflected on the faces of students who visit Bonnet House for onsite Field Trips.  The innocence of being set free in 35-acres of lush landscape replete with a colorful home and courtyard recalls the excitement of special moments in our own childhood.  Is it not a wonder then to realize that the true act of preserving Bonnet House for all time is through our Youth?

This 2022-23 academic year, Bonnet House Museum welcomed 1,830 students and their teachers for onsite field trips.  These fresh and free minds traveled back in time witnessing old Fort Lauderdale blossom into the international city of today just by walking up and over ancient sand dunes.  They followed tidal shifts along the mangrove canals, were charmed by an anhinga fishing in the slough, witnessed all the hues of green along our maritime hammock path, and peeked at a racoon peering out from sprawling branches.  Sometimes, they trekked through rain, but it was worth every drop.  Imagine students who ran up the beach path to see the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time!

Bonnet House Onsite Field Trip Information and Registration can be found by clicking here.  Teachers choose from several programs including, Art, Ecology and History including 2 programs with Stranahan House about the early history of Fort Lauderdale.

The regular Field Trip rate is $8 for our 2-hour program onsite or $14 for a dual program with both Bonnet House and Stranahan House.  It might be surprising to know how difficult it can be for some youth groups to participate, because they must raise money for their students through fundraising.  The Special Rate for Title 1 Schools is $4 per student.  In all, Bonnet House Field Trips become memorable experiences for each young person.  Our special Volunteer Guides broaden the view of this new world through stories from the one-hundred-three-year history of Bonnet House.  A stop at the South Gate Circle takes students even further back when seeing and touching artifacts from a timeline representing Tequesta People and Spanish Explorers who walked through these same natural spaces long ago.

The exceptional thing to realize is that no field trip is ever the same twice.  Even impressions between the groups of students varies dependent upon the time they are viewing the outside realm before entering the sights and sounds of the inner courtyard.  The same school can leave with completely different perspectives from one student to the next.

Moments become memories that last a lifetime.  The special effects of a place and time shape each child with an appreciation for nature, art, design, and a sense of belonging. Building Community was at the heart of the Birch and Bartlett families.  This is still evident today through the Members, Donors, Artists, Volunteers, Visitors, Guests, and Youth who share this kindred spirit.  As we look into the future to preserve and protect the elements of Bonnet House that keep us engaged in its survival, we must promote a palette of experiences for youth to forge future stewardship.  Afterall, it is they who will paint the world.  From these special connections, they will choose to protect and preserve Bonnet House in their own timelines.


Step Back In Time & Into Nature At Bonnet House

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Here at Bonnet House, we understand that life can sometimes feel mundane, and it’s easy to feel disconnected and discouraged while stuck in the basic routines of day-to-day life. Work and family life can be all-consuming at times, and it’s only natural to crave new experiences. Fortunately, however, there are a variety of ways to step back from the monotony of your daily routines and experience something truly unique and magical.

The Bonnet House estate is special in that it provides guests the opportunity to step back in time, while also connecting with the beauty and solitude of nature. Though the Bonnet House property was purchased in 1895, the grounds had already witnessed over 4,000 years of human activity, remnants of which can still be seen on the property today. Bonnet House’s modern history, however, began in 1919, when Hugh Taylor Birch gave the property to his daughter. Since then, the estate has served as a cultural and artistic landmark, taking guests back through time to an exciting, bygone era.

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is also one of the few places in downtown Fort Lauderdale where guests can truly get lost in nature. In 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 freshwater slough, the secondary dune which includes the house site, mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest.

Bonnet House is also a haven for migratory birds, year-round birds indigenous to Florida wetland and coastal areas, and manatees that occasionally seek refuge in the estate’s Boathouse Canal. The natural beauty, and fascinating wildlife makes Bonnet House the perfect place to step back and reconnect with nature.

If you are looking for a way to switch up your routine, be sure to visit Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. Our vast property provides the perfect opportunity to step back in time and into nature. Plan your trip to Bonnet House and purchase your tickets here.

Bonnet House Reopens: Self Guided Tours Of House & Grounds

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While it’s felt like a long couple of months, we are so excited to announce that Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is officially open to the public in its entirety for self guided tours! We couldn’t be more happy to begin getting things back to normal around our estate, while maintaining social distancing requirements and complying with additional CDC recommendations.

To ensure the health and safety of our guests, we made the decision to close the main house during the height of the pandemic. However, as of June 2nd, guests are welcome to tour the main house in addition to the beautiful gardens throughout the tropical estate. To keep our guests safe while they visit, we have marked a one way route through the museum that highlights all areas of the main house.

To enhance the experience of our self-guided tours, we encourage guests to use our new mobile app on their cellphones, which features recorded information about the BirchBartlett family, the unique art collection, and many interesting stops along the tour, including the Bridge/Boat House, studio, courtyard, butler’s pantry, kitchen, Shell Museum/Orchid House/Bamboo Bar and more.

“We are pleased to welcome guests back for self-guided house and grounds tours, offering an enjoyable way to experience the historic estate, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary,” said Patrick Shavloske, CEO of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. “What better way is there to emerge from the seclusion resulting from COVID19 than a visit to this magical property that has served as an outdoor paradise for 100 years?”

Admission costs $20 for the house and grounds tours, $10 for the grounds only tour, and is free for our members. Daily visits will occur Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, with early access for members and visitors with health vulnerabilities from 9:00 am. to 10:00 am.

Guests will be required to maintain the social distance of six feet between visitors at all times, except for families that are currently residing in the same dwelling. Also, to comply with the CDC’s recommendations, guests must wear masks/face coverings at all times. Face coverings and refreshments will be available for purchase in the Welcome Center or Museum Shop.

We hope that you and your family will join us as we reopen our estate. Tickets can be purchased onsite at the Welcome Center, or you can purchase tickets ahead of time, here.

Cruise Down the New River with Bonnet House

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Cruise Down the New River with Bonnet House & Kelly’s Landing
Saturday, July 21, 2018 at 5pm

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens and Kelly’s Landing Seafood Restaurant present Cruisin’ Down the River. Take a boat ride with Bonnet House down the New River Saturday, July 21, 2018 at 5:00 p.m on the famous Carrie B paddlewheel boat. Enjoy wine and tasty treats from Kelly’s Landing and live music from the Gold Coast Banjo Band. Admission is $45 for members and $55 for non-members and includes two glasses of wine along with a lite snack. A cash bar will also be available onboard. The yacht embarkation site is 3440 North New River Drive East, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.

For more information and to reserve your seat, please call (954) 703-2614 or visit

Celebrate Mother’s Day With Bonnet House Museum & Gardens!

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At Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, we value all the wonderful Moms who make our work possible. From the mothers bringing their children and families to visit the Estate, to our volunteer moms spending time away from their family to enhance the quality of Bonnet House, we’d like to extend a warm thank you to every Mom who has contributed to the success of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.

Photo by Mary D’Elia

This Mother’s Day, give Mom the ultimate gift of art and culture by celebrating at Bonnet House free of charge! Sunday, May 13th from 9am – 4pm , Mom’s will be admitted free with one full paid adult admission. Step back in time with Mom and experience life as it was in the 20’s and 30’s as you tour the historic estate filled with a delightful collection of art and personal treasures from the Bartlett family. You also won’t want to miss out on our gorgeous natural trails filled with native plants, trees and even an occasional monkey or swan.

If you still need to pick up a fantastic gift Mom will be sure to love, don’t forget to visit our popular Museum Shop, for elegant jewelry, classy handbags, scarves, and so much more! If you have any questions about the Bonnet House Estate, or our Mother’s Day discounts, please contact Monica Estevez at (954) 703-2614 or [email protected] .

Don’t Miss Our Ojus Tiles!

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When most guests think of Bonnet House, they will likely imagine pristine gardens, luxurious spaces, and fine artwork from across the globe. But one of the most exquisite aspects of Bonnet House often goes overlooked: the floors. At Bonnet House, each room has a different flooring concept. To site a few examples, some rooms, like The Studio, Dining Room and Bamboo Bar contain terrazzo with bronze expansion joints, and the flooring in The Main Orchid Display House is made of roughly finished coral. From Helen’s Music Room to Evelyn’s Bedroom, each room has unique flooring features that are worth remembering!

The most unique floors in all of Bonnet House Estate, however, are the Ojus [Oi-yo] tiles found in the Drawing Room and the Shell Museum. The tiles were named after the Ojus Rock Company quarry that was opened after the turn of the last century. The techniques used to make the tiles was imported from the Mediterranean long before Florida became a state. Each tile can be unique in size, shape and color, as you may notice in the Shell Museum. Unlike the thin walled, but highly decorative glazed tiles, Ojus tiles are thick and heavy, and are sun-dried rather than kiln-dried, making it easier to produce needed quantities.

These tiles are often used for exterior application or high traffic areas as these thick tiles do not require a solid foundation, but can be placed on level ground, are weather tolerant, have more “grip” than glazed tiles, seldom move, can sustain heavy loads without breaking, and rarely chip. Interestingly, after centuries of island colonization, properties that do not have clear deeds or land titles use the hurricane proof tiles to re-establish property lines when there are disputes or a disaster devastates a property.

There are two methods to manufacture Ojus tiles. Initially both use a mold that is approximately three inches deep and filled with concrete. One technique uses pure white sand and calcium
carbonate in its concrete mix. Then, colored ink is immediately swirled into the surface before being sun dried. The second technique allows the initial pour to use regular mix sand. After drying, a slurry of pure white sand and calcium carbonate is poured as a top coat, and the ink is swirled into the surface. These tiles are still made by island artisans for home and commercial application.
Frederic and Hugh Taylor Birch knew what they were doing when they selected the heavier and thicker Ojus tiles for the Estate. They chose a flooring that would take a beating and last for more than a lifetime!

Next time you visit Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, don’t forget to look down and take in the beauty of our unique floors and tiles! If you have any questions about visiting Bonnet House,  please contact us, and we’ll be happy to assist.

ABC’s “The Bachelor” Features Rose Ceremony Filmed on the Bonnet House Estate

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“The Bachelor’s” Rose Ceremony which was filmed throughout Bonnet House in October aired Monday, January 29 at 8pm.  A number of rooms were featured in the show including the Studio, Master Bedroom, Drawing Room, Dining Room and Music Room along with many shots in the Courtyard.  The group entered through the front door of the historic home, walked into the Courtyard and were escorted to the Studio. All of the group shots as well as the Rose Ceremony took place there in the Studio. The individual shots of Krystal were taken in the Master Bedroom, the private meeting with Lauren and Arie took place in the Drawing Room and the meeting with Chris Harrision and Arie took place just outside in the Courtyard. “All of the rooms were dressed up with lovely vintage furnishings and décor that are not part of the house’s collection,” “It was a pleasure having the crew and the show’s contestants on property,” said Monica Estevez, director of marketing at Bonnet House. “The crew was very professional and a delight to work with and they respected the historic nature of the home and estate.”  Click here to learn more about the history of the estate and view photos.

18th Annual Juried Art Exhibit, Making New Impressions, Opens March 8

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Bonnet House Museum & Gardens 18th Annual Juried Art Exhibit and Fundraiser, Making New Impressions, opens Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 6:00p.m. Enjoy an evening of food, cocktails, music and art on the beautiful Bonnet House Estate. All of the art work selected for the competition is for sale and 50% of the proceeds help support the preservation of Bonnet House. Bonnet House is honored to welcome Patricia Watson as the exhibit’s juror. Dr. Watson was a founder, President of the Board and Executive Director of the Riverdale Art Center in Riverdale, New Jersey, a non-profit art gallery and art education center in northern New Jersey. She worked closely with local philanthropists and William Paterson University to establish the center and help emerging artists from that school and the local area to exhibit and sell their art. She oversaw the renovation of a 19th-century factory to house the art center and gallery, and mounted and marketed exhibitions on a monthly basis. She organized three very well attended “Art of Food” festivals that included local chefs, plein air painting and exhibitions, silent auctions, music, dinner and dancing.

“Making New Impressions” showcases artists from throughout Florida

Bonnet House is working to make the event a celebration of art from various perspectives that attracts long-time patrons and new guests.  All guests and participating artists are invited to cast votes for their favorite artist in the exhibition.  The artist receiving the highest number of votes will receive the People’s Choice Award, awarded that evening.  All of the artwork in the Impressions competition will be available for sale with 50% of the proceeds benefiting the ongoing preservation of Bonnet House and its cultural programming that reach over 70,000 visitors, including 8,000 area youth each year.  The Impressions exhibition will be on display from March 8 through April 29, 2018 during Bonnet House regular tour hours.

Additional highlights of the evening will include gourmet food, fine wine and entertainment throughout the house. Invitations for Impressions will be mailed in February. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

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Tranquility and Elegance on Fort Lauderdale Beach

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A recent visit to Fort Lauderdale Beach revealed that this location, once infamous for its Spring Break partiers, continues to evolve into a high-end and family-oriented destination.  A luxury-laden Conrad hotel is poised to open in September while construction on a new and sure to be opulent Four Seasons hotel is also well underway.  But, this level of refinement and luxury is not really all that new to Fort Lauderdale.  Just a few blocks north of these new properties is a place where refined elegance and languid tropical winter days were always commonplace—if only for a few treasured and invited guests.

Nestled near the intersection of State Road A1A and Sunrise Boulevard lies Bonnet House.  This historic estate, once the winter home of artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife Evelyn Fortune Bartlett, is today a historic house museum centered on thirty-five acres of beach front property.  The Bartletts knew how to entertain their fifty closest friends, and they often did in the summer months at their home in Beverly, Massachusetts.  But winters at Bonnet House were different.  Dinner parties there were typically limited to six or eight close friends spending a week of their own Florida winter retreats with the Bartletts.  In the early days of the 1930s and 40s, the beach at Fort Lauderdale was far more placid and secluded than it is today.  A1A was little more than a country road, so crossing it to the Bartlett’s private beach was a leisurely stroll.  That also made it easy for Bonnet House’s butler to serve morning and afternoon refreshments by the sea to the Bartletts and their invited guests.

Meals were taken outside in the courtyard of the Caribbean-style home Frederic designed himself (a close acquaintanceship with Frank Lloyd Wright and Howard Van Doren Shaw had allowed Frederic to master the basics of building design).  A staff of thirteen was on hand to see to the needs of guests and upkeep of the property.  Dinner began with cocktails in the Bamboo Bar.  Martinis were always on hand though a house cocktail made with Rangpur lime juice and Mount Gay rum was also on offer.  Meals would have a classical French flare, not unexpected as one of Evelyn’s chefs had worked for Charles De Gaulle.  Coquilles St. Jacques would of course be served in a scallop shell and cut aspic and black truffle adornments to the main offering would have been de rigueur.  Sea breeze from the Atlantic and the distant sound of waves would make for a comfortable night in the days before air conditioners hummed.

For the Bartletts, Bonnet House was a haven on many levels.  The comparatively relaxed ambiance contributed to the creative spirit of the place.  Frederic continued to paint there into his golden years and earlier encouraged Evelyn to nurture her own innate artistic talent.  This led to a period in the 1930s when Evelyn’s paintings were exhibited to rave reviews at galleries such as the Wildenstein in New York City.  Her art in particular was inspired by the natural surroundings of Bonnet House.  Evelyn’s love of animals was on display there too.  Pets were an integral part of her life including dogs, parrots, swans, and even monkeys.  While sociable within their circle, the Bartletts were also private by nature.  No wonder they placed such value on the estate’s extensive grounds that set Bonnet House in a world apart as the population of Fort Lauderdale beach grew around them.

Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to thrive at Bonnet House.  Her last winter there was in 1995 when she was 107 years old.   Recognizing Bonnet House as the treasure it is, Evelyn preserved the estate by giving it to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.  As a result of her generosity, visitors can experience what life was like on a beachfront estate in the 1930s and 40s.  Walking the forested nature trails, one can easily forget that a bustling beach community is just yards away.  The house and its furnishings are practically unchanged.  Never a slave to fashion, the Bartletts defined their own sense of style early on and stuck with it as the years passed.

Today, guided tours of Bonnet House immerse visitors in Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett’s unique lifestyle.  Art and daily living remain inextricably linked with Frederic’s decorative painting forming a prominent element of the principal rooms and living spaces.  The dining room and butler’s pantry recall days when chefs schooled in the classical tradition created their own culinary artistry, enhanced by Spode and Davenport dinner services.  Former guest rooms now display a collection of paintings by Evelyn while the art studio houses works by Frederic, many on a grand scale.  Seeing artists painting on the grounds is not uncommon in a nod to the creative legacy of Frederic and Evelyn.  From January to April, concerts are held on a monthly basis.  An orchid festival is held each December, inspired by Evelyn’s love of these plants and the 5,000 specimens that remain part of the Bonnet House orchid collection.

While known for its meteoric growth, South Florida is also becoming defined for its embrace of the good life.  Then again, maybe Bonnet House proves that what’s old is new again.