Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House is now in the hands of a local nonprofit.
The historical landmark had been at the center of a feud between Bonnet House Museum & Gardens (legally Bonnet House, Inc.) and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.
Nearly 40 years ago, the 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.
It did until last year, when it attempted to take over direct management of Bonnet House from Bonnet House, Inc., which had cared for all aspects of the property since 1990.
Public outcry was swift and fierce, and elected officials from Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called out the Florida Trust for the seizure.
Thanks to the nonprofit’s widespread public support and deft representation by Maxine Streeter of Genovese Joblove & Battista, a settlement was reached earlier this year.
And on Monday, the nonprofit received the title — the final step in ensuring the 35-acre estate remains in local hands.
“The board, staff and volunteers are all relieved to see this chapter in the property’s history come to a final conclusion,” said Patrick Shavloske, CEO of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.
“We can now focus all our efforts on preserving the estate and developing programming that meets the community’s needs. We estimate that since Jan. 1, 2020, the reorganization has saved Bonnet House well over $100,000, and with the impact of COVID-19, such savings are even more important.”
Now, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens says it’s time to celebrate. Not just the deed signing, but the estate’s centennial, which coincidentally also fell on June 1.
The historic and whimsical estate began welcoming guests back for self-guided house tours on Tuesday after reopening the grounds for tours last month.
Tickets are $20 for the house and grounds tours, and $10 for the grounds-only tour. Tickets are free for members.
The property is open to guests Tuesday — Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The estate has set aside the 9 a.m. hour to accommodate guests with potential health vulnerabilities.
All visitors must wear a mask or face covering.