Hugh Taylor Birch purchased the Bonnet House site in 1895, and gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919.
Built in 1920 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bonnet House is one of the few complete homes and studios of two American artists open to the public. Nestled among miles of beachfront development are 35 acres of a native barrier island ecosystem. The Main House is filled with a collection of art and the personal treasures of the Birch/Bartlett families.
Here, you can walk where ancient Tequesta Indians, early European settlers, and shipwrecked sailors once roamed. See one of the finest orchid collections in the continental U.S. and catch a glimpse of wading birds and an occasional manatee. Today, the estate is a delightful house museum dedicated to historic and environmental preservation.
Frederic Clay Bartlett had graduated from Munich’s prestigious Royal Academy in 1895 and returned to a prolific and prosperous career in the United States. Examples of his easel art are displayed in the Bonnet House studio and his murals and faux painting can be found throughout the Main House. His second wife, Evelyn Fortune Lilly, began painting in 1932. WIth little formal art training but much encouragement from Frederic, for six years she painted prolifically, and her work was featured in well-received gallery exhibits in Boston, New York, and Indianapolis. Evelyn’s works are today displayed in the Bonnet House Gallery.