Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Bonnet House is the former estate of Hugh Taylor Birch, a former Chicago lawyer who owned a large tract of land purchased in 1895. He later bequeathed it to his daughter Helen and her husband, artist Frederic Clay Bartlett. They lived there during the summers with Frederic’s son from a previous marriage.
Helen died in 1925 and Frederic later married Evelyn Fortune Lilly, the ex-wife of pharmaceutical industrialist Eli Lilly. Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to visit there until her passing in 1997. She deeded the home to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983.
What to See at the Bonnet House
The house was built in the Caribbean plantation style with open-air hallways and rooms connected only through exterior doors around a central courtyard. Bartlett had his own studio here, where you can still see a number of his paintings. Your guided tour starts in the gardens, where you’ll find a bird habitat and lush plant life. You might even spot the monkeys that live on the property.
Then your guide will show you some of the rooms, including the music room, kitchen, and tiki-themed bar. The furnishings, as well as the mosaics and decorative work on the walls and ceilings, have been carefully preserved from the time the family lived here.
The last stop of the tour is a small art gallery and a video that describes more of the home and family’s history. No photos are allowed in any of the rooms but are allowed outside inside the grounds. Admire this waterfront house and many others on the Venice of America Fort Lauderdale Cruise.
Tips for Visiting the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is located at 900 N Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304. They are open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm, but closed on Mondays and major holidays. Tours run every hour starting at 9:30 and ending at 3:30, lasting one and a half hours.
Admission for the house tour and gardens is $20 for adults, $16 for students, and free for children under 6. You can also come just for the gardens, which will cost you $10. There are two entrances for the museum, one for cars and one for pedestrians. Parking is available onsite or you can take the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi.
Where to Eat Near the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
The Bonnet House is only a few blocks away from the beach, where a number of restaurants are located. Thai On the Beach is one of them with views of the water and dishes like sushi, dumplings, and pad Thai. Kousine Fort Lauderdale has Peruvian and vegetarian dishes, including ceviche, skewers, and stir frys.
Where to Stay Near the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Coconut Bay Resort is a short walk away from the Bonnet House, offering an outdoor pool and family-sized rooms. Across the bridge, GALLERYone – a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel has kitchenettes, water taxi access, and easy proximity to Las Olas Boulevard. The Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach has spa suites and a Caribbean restaurant.
My visit to the Bonnet House was coordinated by Visit Fort Lauderdale.