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Henry Morrison Flagler Museum – Part I - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Places to Visit

Palm Beach County is the home one of Florida’s finest museums; the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.

The Flagler Museum was Florida’s first museum and was built in 1902 as a ‘house museum’ that would showcase the finest in art. The museum is housed in Whitehall, the fifty five roomed home that Flagler built for his wife Mary and in which became their winter retreat from 1902 to 1913.

Henry Flagler made, and lost, a fortune in the salt mining industry and then made another fortune in the oil industry before building the 540 room Hotel Ponce de Leon in Jacksonville He then purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax Railroad, which was the first link in what would eventually become the Florida East Coast Railway. Flagler built more grand hotels and extended his railway down to West Palm Beach and then in 1901 commissioned the architects who had been responsible for the Ponce de Leon hotel to design Whitehall, which was to be a wedding present for his third wife, Mary Lily Keenan.

Entrance to the museum is via the four thousand square foot Grand Hall from which a grand double staircase leads to the second floor. From here visitors can explore a variety of rooms on both the first and second floors including the Music Room, with it’s 1249 pipe organ, for which the Flagler family employed a resident organist. The Billiard room features, apart from billiards tables, a Swiss-style ornamented fireplace made from stone imported from Caen in northern France. The Grand Ballroom is a Lois XV style opulent room which contains a series of lunette paintings created specifically for Whitehall and chandeliers with Baccarat crystals. This ballroom was used in 1903 to host a lavish party in honour of George Washington’s birthday.

The Breakfast room, which was used daily by the Flagler family, is set out as it would have been back in the early 1900’s and it’s wall are hung with paintings by Martin Johnson Heade, an American floral and landscape painter who for some time worked under Flagler’s patronage.

On the second floor visitors can tour some of the many bedrooms such as the Colonial Room, the Blue Room, the Rose Room, the Louis XV Room, the Gold Room, the Heliotrope Room, and the Green Room which accommodated visitors to Whitehall. Many of the rooms contain original furnishings, while others contain pieces which would have been in fashion at the time but have been brought in from other houses.

To read more about the Flagler Museum please see my second article.

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