Bonnet House crushes Florida Trust’s diabolical takeover attempt In victory that proves you can beat back bad things with facts, truth

Sometimes, it seems, the good guys actually do win.

Sometimes, it seems, the good guys actually do win.

The nasty feud between Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation – which you read about first in Florida Politics – is finally over. Bonnet House, a beloved area landmark, punched back hard against a hostile takeover attempt by the Florida Trust. Finally, last week, David deservedly beat Goliath. 

Nearly 40 years ago, the magnificent house’s owner, Evelyn Bartlett, placed Bonnet House in the hands of the Florida Trust, believing the Tallahassee nonprofit would honor her wishes to keep the estate – and all its revenue – under local management. Then last year the Florida Trust tried to pull off a long-distance power play, attempting to oust the local board and grab the property and its bank account, presumably to shore up its own cash flow. It was arrogant, obnoxious, even mean-spirited – but the Trust seemed to be holding all of the cards needed to seal a winning hand, albeit a very heavy hand. 

Bonnet House allies – a veritable Who’s Who of state and local politics – jumped into the fray after we published an exposing-the-truth column. That helped pressure the Florida Trust to back off. The power lineup included state Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried, the Broward legislative delegation spearheaded by Reps. Chip LaMarca and Kristin Jacobs, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Commissioner Steve Glassman, and Broward Commissioner Lamar Fisher.

We’re fairly certain key folks at Florida’s capitol in the Executive and Legislative branches also took notice and helped tipped the scales toward righting this wrong.

It took a while, but the Florida Trust finally saw the handwriting on the wall, and reached a settlement. As part of the deal, the Florida Trust agreed to transfer the property to the local board and walk away completely from the historic estate and its revenue. In exchange, the Bonnet House trust fund paid the Florida Trust around $885,000 – a smart investment now to keep the Florida Trust’s hands off the property in the future. Bonnet House management is now completely in local hands, and every single dollar it earns or receives through donations will be used to preserve and care for the property.

“This year Bonnet House marks its 100th anniversary and we are wildly optimistic about the future,” said Bonnet House CEO Patrick Shavloske. “The best is yet to come.”

It isn’t often the locals can fend off the big boys in Tallahassee. So score one for the good guys!

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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