I am so excited to share these photos of Bonnet House with you! While in Fort Lauderdale recently, we visited the historic house and grounds of Bonnet House, an estate on 35 acres of land right on the beach and canals of South Florida. It is the only undeveloped area between Miami and Palm Beach (basically the only thing that hasn't been crowded with high-rise condominiums blocking views of the beach!). You can still see manatees occasionally coming in with high tide, and the area boasts many indigenous animals and plants. I think the house and its owners have a fascinating history, and I really enjoyed the tour! I hope you like these photos I took during our visit.
This is the back of the house (it is in a courtyard style, so from the outside it doesn't look particularly special). In fact, the house was intentionally designed to be fairly simple (concrete block, stucco, etc.).
The original house was constructed in 1920, but construction and modifications continued for another 20 years.
Here is what would have been servants' quarters. On the right side you can see the orchid display greenhouse, which was attached to a small circular shell museum and a bamboo home bar. The signature drink of the house was a Rangpur Lime cocktail, made from the rangpur limes that grew on the property (see picture below):
The house was built by Frederic Clay Bartlett, a successful artist from Chicago who married the daughter of a wealthy Chicago lawyer and real estate speculator who gave the land to his new son-in-law to encourage the newlyweds to winter in Florida with him each year. The plan worked, and the couple were happily married for about six years, building their winter home together and traveling around the world collecting art.
The direct entrance to the courtyard is between these two large obelisks
I liked the columns and obelisks scattered throughout the property; they brought some architectural order to the lush, rather wild feel of the grounds
Construction on the house ceased for a few years when Frederic's wife, Helen Birch Bartlett, died in 1925. When she died, he donated the art collection they had amassed together to the Art Institute of Chicago. In later years the museum began to surmise just how significant the gift had been. Want to see for yourself? Check out the Helen Birch Bartlett memorial collection here.
This small pavilion served as a venue for parties and daytime cocktails. Frederic painted several backdrops to be hung in the "tent" so they could be swapped out for various parties. In front of the structure is a small pond filled with the bonnet lilies from which the house got its name.
This larger slough runs alongside the house's veranda. You can see the thatched bridge at the end of the pond, which was originally built for the owners by the Seminoles.
Amazingly, the thatched roof withstood the latest hurricane to hit the area; unfortunately, many of the tallest trees did not.
This marble dry fountain is often used as a wedding venue for local brides and grooms -- wouldn't that be lovely?
Frederic designed the fountain himself. He also designed and oversaw the construction of the house. He was trained as an artist, not an architect, but he was very involved in the layout of the house and grounds.
This building, known as the Island Theatre, was used to host viewings of family movies. It is surrounded by a moat filled with koi.
I love the light fixtures on the sides of the servants' quarters and the garage; they remind me of the garage from Sabrina (the Audrey Hepburn version).
The family's last car was this Cadillac
From the veranda, family and guests could walk down these stairs, over a bridge, and a few yards down to the beach along the path opposite.
Lovely scalloped detailing on the woodwork
Yellow is the dominant color here, and benches were found under many windows and outside entryways
You can tell that the owners loved color -- here is a little sneak peek into the courtyard area, which I'll show you tomorrow. The yellow framed arched door you can see inside leads into the dining room, so you can imagine how nice it would be to grab a plate of food, then walk through the ironwork gates to eat on the veranda.
Check back tomorrow for some glimpses into the inner courtyard and some of the art collected there.