On March 21, 2017 we departed early morning about 7:00am from San Diego bound for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We had a short stop in Dallas to change planes before arriving in Ft. Lauderdale about 4:30pm. Our friends Jim Gill and Phil Farnsworth picked us up at the airport and took us to their lovely new townhouse nearby.
On the 22nd we met up with Kent’s childhood friend Jim Meeks and his wife Judy at the Cheesecake Factory in Boca Raton. After lunch we came back to Ft. Lauderdale where we visited the Bonnet House, Museum and Gardens.
The Bonnet House was designed by Frederic Clay Bartlett, an American artist from Chicago. The house is built on 35 acres of ocean front property given to Frederic and his wife Helen as a wedding gift from her father, Hugh Taylor Birch in 1920. Construction of the estate continued for more than 20 years, due to the death of Helen, and Frederic’s second marriage to Evelyn Fortune Lilly. Evelyn came form a wealthy family and was previously married to Eli Lilly and had received a generous divorce settlement in the millions.
The house is built around a central courtyard garden comprised of large covered veranda’s, a fountain and lush landscaping. Each room surrounding the courtyard is casual and comfortable as this was a beach house and not their main residence. Art from both Frederic and Evelyn, as well as others, is found throughout the home. They painted on canvas as well as on the walls, ceilings and floors when the mood suited them.
The home sits near a man-made lily pond filled with Bonnet Lilies, which is where the name of the house comes from. The main house consists of a drawing room or living room, dining room, kitchen, pantry, music room and gallery. The upstairs is not on the tour, but houses the bedrooms and bathrooms for the owners, guests and staff of 15. In addition to these main structures, there are several out buildings used for Evelyn’s shell collection, an orchid greenhouse, the caretakers’ quarters, an island theater where home movies were shown and a pavilion on a lily pond used for relaxing and visiting with friends.
The gardens around the property are lushly landscaped in a variety of styles from local vegetation to a desert garden of cactus and succulents. Small monkeys, majestic swans, wading birds, iguanas and an occasional manatee can be found enjoying the grounds.
Evelyn lived here until she died just shy of her 110th birthday and had donated the property to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation so that it would be preserved just as she left it for future generations to enjoy.
On Wednesday evening, Phil and Jim hosted a dinner party for a 90-year-old friend and his two friends from England. Jim was responsible for preparing the dinner while Phil set the table and served drinks. It was a fun evening and we enjoyed meeting these new folks.