Before we give the countless reasons as to why you should visit the Henry Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, you should know a little bit about who Henry Flagler is and why he is so important to Palm Beach’s history. He is after all, the man who helped Palm Beach become the hot destination it is today with his dedication to building the Overseas Railroad.
You won’t want to miss out on visiting both The Henry Flagler Museum and The Breakers Hotel and learning all about Palm Beach’s founding way back in the early 1900s.
About Henry Flagler – The Man Behind Palm Beach’s Founding
Henry Flagler was born in 1830. His father was a Presbyterian minister who could barely put bread on the table. Henry Flagler described his childhood as cold and hungry, though this wouldn’t be the case for his teen years. At the ripe age of 14, Henry left home and eventually became one of the most impressive and astute self-made industrial millionaires in the U.S. in the 19th century. He became part of the elite group of wealthy people including Rockefellers, Edison, Vanderbilts and others.
Later in his fifties and sixties, Henry turned his attention to Florida, where he began to focus on the overseas railroad he built, which ended in Key West. The railroad was a pivotal aspect in the creation of what is now Palm Beach. The railroad was inaugurated in 1912, just one year before Henry Flagler passed away.
The History of the Henry Flagler Museum
The Henry Flagler Museum was built by Henry Flagler himself in 1902 as a residence called Whitehall. It was a gift for his third wife Mary Flagler, whom he married at age 71 when she was only 34 years old. Henry also built The Breakers Hotel, initially named “The Palm Beach Inn” in 1896, to help accommodate passengers traveling on his Florida East Coast Railway routes.
Top Reasons to Visit the Henry Flagler Museum in Palm Beach:
#1. You are Taking a Step Back in History
Whitehall was built during America’s Gilded Age, which was between the end of the Civil War and the 1929 Stock Market crash. Many commodities such as cars, telephones and electric lights became popular during this luxurious era. When you first walk into the museum, you will walk through large bronze doors that lead you into the Grand Hall, a stunning 500 square foot room that is the largest reception area of any private home in this era. The finest marble, expensive art and painted ceilings will transport you back to this time period.
#2. Henry Flagler’s Famous Private Railcar 91
When you visit the Henry Flagler Museum you have the opportunity to step inside his famous private railcar 91. The car was built in 1886 and is even older than Whitehall. Flagler’s railcar made many of his peers envious and it even had a bathroom, which was a luxury unheard of in this time period. Henry Flagler used this grandiose railroad car to travel for business and to stay on top of the progress of his railroad. Henry Flagler also used this car to travel to Key West to celebrate the completion of his Overseas Railroad in 1912. This railroad car covered 156 miles of open ocean and was one of the most ambitious engineering trips of all time.
The Henry Flagler Museum obtained the Railcar Number 91 in 1959 and it now resides in its very own building named The Flagler Keenan Pavilion, which is next to Whitehall on the museum grounds.
#3. You Can See How the Wealthy Industrialists Lived in This Time
Flagler’s granddaughter Jean Flagler Matthews created the Trust and Non-profit Organization which has helped to preserve Whitehall and restore the 75-room property to its former glory days. When you visit the Henry Flagler Museum you can see all of the restored bedrooms in all different colors and themes and you can witness how the upper class and wealthy industrials lived in the early 20th century. You can also see the opulent dining room with all of the cutlery and dishes – just how it would have looked in this time period. Don’t miss out on seeing the Grand Ballroom, where guests danced the night away until the early morning hours.
There are Four Ways to Tour The Henry Flagler Museum – All of which are Free:
This tour covers the first floor of Whitehall and lasts approximately one hour. This is a guided tour where a docent will explain the history and meaning of each room in Whitehall.
- In-Season (November 1st to April 30th) tours start on the front porch at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. (Tuesday through Saturday).
- On Sundays tours begin at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
- During the Off-Season (May 1st to October 31st) tours start on the front porch at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (Tuesday through Saturday).
- On Sundays tours begin at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
See the Audio Tour Attendant on the front porch to receive a complementary audio tour wand. You can learn about the history of Whitehall and Henry Flagler by listening to descriptions of rooms, objects, and Gilded Age life narrated by the Education Director, Chief Curator, and Executive Director.
Flagler Museum App
Download the free Flagler App to your smart phone before visiting the Museum. The Flagler App includes an orientation video, audio tour, floor plans, images, events calendar and more.
Printed Self-Guide Brochures
Self-Guide Brochures will guide you through each room and give you a background on the history.
Be Sure to Also Visit The Breakers Hotel
The Breakers Hotel is one of the few hotels built by Flagler that is still operating. The hotel is currently a luxury resort with all the bells and whistles you could ever imagine along with old-age glamour you’d expect from a hotel built in this time period. The Hotel, initially named “The Palm Beach Inn,” survived the Great Depression and also recovered from two fires, one in 1903 where the hotel burned to the ground and one in 1925, which was rumored to be started by a small electrical mishap. The Flagler heirs rebuilt the hotel in 1926 and completed construction in less than a year. The hotel currently offers its own private beach, several luxury pools, golf courses, and restaurants.
Palm Beach is notorious for its golf courses, with The Oceans Golf Course at the Breakers being the oldest 18-hole golf course in Florida. It was built in 1896 as a 9-hole course, but now serves as an 18-hole course with a steakhouse and sports store. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to golf where the great Henry Flagler once did on the oldest 18-hole course in the state.
Make It a Day of Learning
The Henry Flagler Museum and The Breakers Hotel are located right next to each other, only being separated by the Breaker’s Hotel Golf Course. The Flagler Museum also offers tours of The Breakers as well, so don’t miss out on visiting these two pieces of Palm Beach History build by the man who helped make the city what it is today.
The next time you find yourself vacationing in Palm Beach, make sure to visit both the Henry Flagler Museum and The Breakers Hotel to learn about the history of the city and how it all began with a railroad. You won’t regret learning how wealthy people of the Gilded Age lived in luxury. When you visit the Henry Flagler Museum, you will also be able to brag about you sat in his famous private railcar 91.
Let Us Help Make Palm Beach Your New Home
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We are excited that you’re interested in becoming a part of the West Palm Beach community. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information on the area or if you have additional questions. We look forward to hearing from you soon!