I always assumed that Ft. Lauderdale, Florida was all sun and fun, mega yachts on its many waterways, and sports cars that rev up the A1A; the beautiful motorway along the shore. It’s a place to get away from winter, but I found out there is more. There is the Bonnet House.
I found it, but not without getting lost first. Wrong Way Rodal struck again. I even had a map, but didn’t bother looking at the legend. It was close to the restaurant where we had dinner the night before. So I walked toward the Casablanca Cafe, and walked, and walked, and no Bonnet House. Well, I walked in exactly the opposite direction. The concierge said to turn right, and I sometimes have a problem with left and right, and I turned left, because it was so close to the restaurant. Well, it was not.
It is not an easy place to find, but well worth any effort. Bonnet House is pure magic. According to our tour guide, it was so called because there were alligators in the inlets, along with water lilies, and when the gators surfaced, they seemed to wear the lily, and it looked like a bonnet.
The property was originally purchased by the Birch family and later through marriage, American artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, enjoyed spending winters in what was pristine, ocean front property in Ft. Lauderdale . The Birch-Bartlett union brought with it art and philanthropy.
Frederic Bartlett was a successful artist, and in high demand. The house reflects an eclectic taste in art, furniture, right down to the design of the home. He possessed another talent, his undeniable appreciation of the new art movement in Europe.
Impressionism was in full swing and Post-Impressionism was lurking in the forefront, and he collected what we now consider the masters of that period, Seurat, Gauguin, Matisse, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso to name just a few.
Our guide told us Frederic Bartlett offered his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and they turned him down. Fortunately for us in the Chicago land area, the Art Institute did accept his gift.
Now, whenever I visit my old friends, I’ll thank Mr. Bartlett for his incredible generosity.
If you’re in the Ft. Lauderdale area, do not miss the Bonnet House, it is well worth a visit.
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