The surrounding "grounds" are one of just a couple natural-type areas in Fort Lauderdale, and it feels almost like a miniature rain forest. We were advised that we just might spot a squirrel monkey--a local bartender nearby reportedly kept the monkeys caged in his bar in the 1970s. His bar burned down one night, but the monkeys got out. They determined that someone had released the monkeys and thus determined it was arson! The owner did the right thing by the monkeys, but went to jail for it. Those monkeys took up residence at the Bonnet House grounds.
And we saw most or all of them right as we walked in, which was really unusual! I don't like monkeys, but these were super-cute.
Oh no! It blinked!
Note to self. Barbed wire fences do not deter squirrel monkeys.
So, when you check in at the main entrance, they give you your little visitor sticker and let you wander the grounds until your scheduled tour starts at the main house.
We had a large group and an absolutely excellent guide, an older woman from New York. We waited in a kind of shaded area. Once the tour started (I think at 10:30 sharp!) she outlined the history of the house.
The house was reportedly named for the bonnet lily that grows there, or else an alligator came up in the lily pond and it looked like it had a bonnet on, and that's how the house got its name. American artist Frederic Clay Bartlett received the near-beachfront-property land as a wedding gift (when he married his second wife, Helen Birch). Construction on the house started in 1920. Helen died in 1925, they donated their impressionist art collection to the Chicago Art Museum, and Frederic married Evelyn Fortune Lilly (of the pharmaceutical family). They did not lack for money! Frederic and Evelyn were both artists, and they built up the house.
Here is a link to the front of the visitor guide.
The map makes the grounds look really big, but the walk around the grounds is not very long at all. If you don't want to or can't walk, they'll take you on a tour on something like a golf cart for a couple bucks.
You are permitted to take photos in the courtyard only, not inside the rooms (which are even more fabulous than the exterior, IMO).
After our visit with the monkeys I found this statue pretty interesting!
I believe they said that Evelyn hand-painted all this netting, while Frederic painted the fish.
There is a little greenhouse right off the shell room. The guide said something like she'd never seen the orchids look so nice.
If you want to see more of the indoors, Martha Stewart has some pictures up. (They did not allow us to go upstairs, so it even has a picture of a bedroom we didn't see!)
After the tour, we enjoyed wandering the 38-acre grounds.
If you follow the one spur of the path, you can walk close enough to see the ocean. There's a locked gate keeping you from crossing the highway to get there, though!
I believe this is a little pavilion where Frederic would host card games, with themed murals and everything. The painting, being outdoors, is by necessity a reproduction.
Oh, and I love dressing up for no reason, so I wore my "1920s" outfit to the Bonnet House. Should've worked harder to get good pictures with my co-author, though.
At Arby's afterward, they asked our names for our order. Is it wrong that I gave them the name of one of my characters from the 1920s?