Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Fort Lauderdale, FL
United States
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Named for a lily that grows in the nearby Bonnet Slough, this 35-acre estate is built upon a barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. Early settler Hugh Taylor Birch purchased the land in 1895 and gifted it to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederick Clay Bartlett, in 1919. The couple designed a house that hybridized Mediterranean, Caribbean, and European styles wrapped by loggias and surrounding a central courtyard. Following Helen’s death in 1925 Bartlett married Evelyn Fortune Lilly, also an artist, and together they continued to develop the estate's diverse landscape.

The property is comprised of five distinct ecosystems, including a fresh water slough, primary and secondary dunes, mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest. Melaleuca trees line the driveway leading to an arid plant garden that surrounds the walled central courtyard. The formal courtyard, with its walls and paving of local coral stone, contains tropical plantings and a central terra cotta fountain. Fruit trees extend westward from the house in contrast with a broad lawn that overlooks an open water slough to the east. A colorful pavilion overlooks a freshwater lagoon and the property is bordered by a hardwood coastal hammock. Significantly impacted by hurricanes in 2005, the landscape has been restored by EDSA working with the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.