One of the most colorful and vibrant historic homes in Florida is just steps from the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale.
Chicago attorney and naturalist Hugh Taylor Birch purchased hundreds of acres of coastal waterfront in the 1890s. When his daughter Helen married artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919, Birch gave the property to the couple as a wedding gift.
Bartlett sketched out plans for a large plantation-style home that came to be known as Bonnet House, named after the Bonnet Lily. Helen died in 1925 and Bartlett married Evelyn Lilly, the ex-wife of famous industrialist Eli Lilly, a few years later. While Bartlett passed away in the 1950s, Evelyn lived at the home until her death in 1997 at the age of 109.
She saw to it that future generations would get to enjoy the place she loved so much by deeding the property to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Visitors can take guided tours of the house, which includes whimsical antiques and statues, an incredible art studio, and an entire room displaying sea shells large and small.
The beautifully manicured grounds are an attraction on their own. White swans grace a large pond in front of the house and a troop of wild Costa Rican squirrel monkeys have taken up residence in the trees. Even manatees are occasionally spotted.