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The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a historical estate that lets visitors experience Fort Lauderdale’s Golden Twenties in all their opulent style. The 35 Million Dollar mansion was once the winter residence of artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and his family. Bartlett’s wife donated the villa to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983. Since then, visitors have toured the Bonnet House and its beautiful gardens – a perfect place for architecture fans, nature and animal lovers, art connoisseurs and anybody looking for peace and quiet in Fort Lauderdale.
The Bonnet House is located on a barrier island off the northeastern coast of Fort Lauderdale, just a few meters away from the beach. From Downtown Fort Lauderdale you can reach the estate in 10 minutes by car.
Evelyn Fortune Bonnet donated the house to the Florida Trust under one condition: Its original design was not to be changed. Therefore, the building still looks like it did at the beginning of the 20th century when Frederic Clay Bartlett designed it in the Caribbean Plantation Style.
Visitors are amazed when they enter the gates and find themselves amidst lush, tropical surroundings. The Bonnet House’s exterior is graced by columns, fountains and obelisks made of coral stone, a typical building material in Florida. Elegant wooden panels and golden chandeliers can be seen inside the house. A main attraction is the salon ceiling carved from a single mahogany tree that washed up on the coast during a storm.
The rooms are lined with paintings and murals by Bartlett, an avid painter of Florida’s nature. This extensive exhibition is accompanied by many works of world-renowned masters like Picasso, as well as colorful sea shells and delicate china of the highest quality.
Outside the house, one of America’s most beautiful collections of orchids awaits you. The gardens are also a perfect place for animal lovers, as ducks, swans and other birds populate the coast here. Turtles swim in the water, and if you are lucky, you can spot Florida’s famous manatees in the wild. Looking up, visitors can still see the descendants of Emily Bonnet’s pets: two monkeys that love to climb the trees, but also frequent the footpaths.
Unlike most barrier islands in Florida, other buildings were not allowed here. Therefore, a considerable part of the 34 acres estate is still comprised of untouched nature, including large mahogany trees, lush coconut palms and extensive mangrove forests.
Before you leave the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, you should take your time to visit the gift shop. Here you can purchase elaborate jewelry, handcrafted items and colorful orchids for your loved ones.
The Bartletts designed the Bonnet House as a site for culture and the fine arts. This is still reflected in the event calendar today. Besides housing exhibitions by local artists, the estate is also used for concerts, art lectures and orchid shows. Guests who want to save money should visit on a “Cool Saturday“: On the first Saturday of the month from July to October, the ticket price is only 10 USD. Children under the age of 12 visit the Bonnet House for free. This offer is valid from 9 am to 4 pm.
If you are looking for a classy ambience to host your own event, you can book the Bonnet House’s extensive gardens. There, an air-conditioned suite provides the perfect venue for weddings, birthdays or corporate events.