When it comes to taking care of historic homes, South Florida ain't exactly a poster child for preservation. Unfortunately, what man and machine don't get to plunder, Ma Nature has a way of taking care of herself. After the double-whammy of Wilma and Katrina last year, Fort Lauderdale's historic Bonnet House took the hardest hit of just about any structure in town. Closed for seven weeks due to power outages, the Bonnet House had to spend $300,000 just to clear away tree limbs. The loss of tour revenue and the cost of cleanup and replacing landscaping came to more than $1.8 million which would seem a catastrophic blow to the museum/tourist attraction.
"Especially when you consider our annual budget is $1.2 million," says Director of Development Patrick Shavloske. Grants and gifts from foundations and corporations have pushed the house back toward the black, but the specter of another hurricane season even as roofs are being fixed and mold damage repaired isn't making anyone feel comfortable. Making matters worse, the house doesn't even have a backup generator in case the power goes out again. If the house is shuttered tight again, without electricity, even more of the museum's collection is in jeopardy.
"We're not masters of our own fate here," Shavloske explains. Bonnet House is owned by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, which hasn't kicked down the cash for a new generator yet.
At least the Bonnet House isn't threatened by a 42-story condominium sprouting up in its backyard, like the unfortunate Stranahan House a few miles away. "Well..." Shavloske says. "Um. There's a possibility that one may be going next to us at the Howard Johnson's site on A1A."
Of course, there's always the possibility the new condo will act as a windbreak.