Whitehall Flagler Museum

Whitehall Flagler Museum

It could be argued that nobody had more to do with Florida coming into its own than Henry Flagler, in which case anyone visiting West Palm Beach should consider dropping by the Whitehall Flagler Museum. Often referred to as the “Taj Mahal of North America,” the Whitehall Mansion and Museum was built for Henry Flagler, who presented it as a wedding present to his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. Few are the gifts that can rival this one. The Whitehall Mansion spans some 55,000 square feet and boasts no fewer than 55 rooms. Marble abounds almost everywhere you look, as do precious antiques, and the whole place has the feel of a European castle. Now one of the local museums, Whitehall serves to preserve the Gilded Age, and much like the mansions in Rhode Island, it does a fine job of it.

Henry Morrison Flagler, who cofounded Standard Oil, also established the Florida East Coast Railway and built lavish Florida hotels in the late 1800s. As opulent as the hotels were, they weren’t a match for Whitehall Mansion, which was finished in 1902. Flagler and his third wife spent their winters at Whitehall from 1902 to 1913, and one can imagine that these were very pleasant winters. The couple entertained almost to no end while vacationing at Whitehall, and guests were lucky enough to stay in opulent guest suites that are still decked out in antique European furnishings. When it comes to West Palm Beach history, it is interesting to note that Flagler died in 1913 as a result of injuries that he suffered falling down a flight of stairs at the Whitehall Mansion. He was 84 years old. The business tycoon certainly lived a full life, and the Flagler Museum West Palm Beach is proof of that.

Interestingly, in 1959, Whitehall was in danger of being razed. Prior to that, it had served as a hotel for 34 years. Thankfully, a granddaughter of Flagler formed a nonprofit corporation named the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum. This corporation purchased the property, and in 1960, it hosted a grand ball to raise money for restorations. You’ll no doubt appreciate the restorations on your tour of the Whitehall Flagler Museum, which deserves at least two hours of your time. Among the main points of interest at the Flagler Museum are the Louis XV-style ballroom, the Louis-XIV style music room and art gallery, and the inviting guest suites. Visitors to the Whitehall Flagler Museum also won’t want to pass on the chance to board the Rambler, or Railcar #91, as it is also known. This restored railcar was Flagler’s own private rail car, and it has been wonderfully restored. The rail car alone is worth a visit to this delightful West Palm Beach museum.

The Flagler Museum West Palm Beach can actually be found in Palm Beach, which is West Palm Beach’s ritzier neighbor. The address is 1 Whitehall Way. Guided tours are offered at the Whitehall Flagler Museum, though this is a museum that you can easily and enjoyably tour on your own. During the fall and winter months, visitors can not only tour the museum, but they will also be able to explore a changing exhibit gallery, which revolves around America’s Gilded Age and Florida history.

There is a fee to access the Whitehall Flagler Museum, and the hours of operation are noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. In addition to being closed on Mondays, the Whitehall Mansion and Museum is also closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. As a side note, if you’re looking for other museums to visit on your West Palm Beach getaway, the Norton Museum of Art and the Morikami Museum are two museums worth considering.

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