Visitors to Whitehall, a 100,000-square-foot Palm Beach estate on the eastern shores of Lake Worth, will find themselves transported back in time to an era in America called the Gilded Age. Whitehall was built in 1902 and was the winter home of Standard Oil co-founder Henry Morrison Flagler and his wife Mary Lily Kenan Flagler. Today it is open to the public as the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum where visitors can learn about one of Florida’s founding fathers, his hotel and railroad empire and even climb aboard his own private railcar.
Recently voted 2021’s Best Museum in Palm Beach County, this National Historic Landmark is currently offering visitors safe, socially-distanced self-guided tours of Whitehall, its grounds and the Flagler Kenan Pavilion, a modern building designed to evoke a 19th century railway palace. Masks or facial coverings are required for staff and visitors over the age of two, and tickets must be purchased in advance for a “contact-less” point of entry. Groups of up to 4 people will choose a timed entry reservation and are asked to arrive as close to their entry time as possible. Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the Museum, and its cleaning protocols recently earned it the GBAC Star Facility accreditation, indicating the Museum follows the most stringent cleaning protocols set forth by the world’s leading cleaning industry association.
Offering magnificent views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the West Palm Beach skyline outside, once inside, Whitehall visitors will marvel at the home’s grand rooms, period décor, and focus on the importance of arts and culture. A printed brochure and the Flagler Museum App (available for downloading to personal devices) provide details in multiple languages on each room as well as life in the Gilded Age, the Flagler family and Henry Flagler’s achievements as a prominent American businessman and founding father of Florida. Both the first and second floors of Whitehall are open for touring, and the home is handicap accessible. The Museum Store is open in the West Room, an area that was once the public dining room of the Whitehall Hotel, and offers unique gifts, jewelry and a well-known collection of historical books for those interested in socially-distanced shopping.
The Flagler Kenan Pavilion houses Railcar No. 91, Flagler’s private “palace on wheels” as it was called in a newspaper article when it was built in 1896. Flagler would travel aboard No. 91 to survey his railroad empire, and it was part of the first train to cross the infamous Over-Sea Railroad to Key West when it was completed in 1912. Climb aboard and imagine traveling by train from the Northeast United States to South Florida, just as many of Flagler’s guests did at the turn of the 19th century. Afterwards, take a walk out onto the Pavilion terrace for a photo opp with the sparkling Intracoastal Waterway.
At the end of the tour, guests will meander down a pergola-shaded walkway through the Cocoanut Grove, a forest of palm trees that recall what Palm Beach looked like when Flagler first visited the island in the late 1800s, and notably how the island got its name. The Flaglers and their guests would often sit in the groves adjacent to Whitehall and Flagler’s Palm Beach hotels, The Hotel Royal Poinciana and the Palm Beach Inn (now known as The Breakers), to have their afternoon tea.
The Café des Beaux-Arts offers seasonal refreshment options inspired by the Gilded Age to visitors seeking a culinary experience, from its signature tea service in the Flagler Kenan Pavilion to a new a la carte option called PICNIC. Now open to spring and summertime visitors, PICNIC’s menu of light bites, sweet treats and ice-cold beverages may be enjoyed outside in the Cocoanut Grove, where café tables and chairs offer respite in the shade of the palms overlooking Lake Worth.
For more information on visiting and to learn about upcoming programs, exhibitions and events at the Flagler Museum, visit www.flaglermuseum.us. Museum Memberships are available and include perks such as free admission, a discount in the Museum Store and invitations to members-only events.
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach, FL 33480; (561) 655-2833
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 12 to 5 pm