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Good For Kids
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The house and grounds have a stately look.
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
Closest available address
One Whitehall Way Palm Beach, FL 33480
Open Tue.-Sat. 10:00am-5:00pm and Sun. 12:00pm-5:00pm
Best time to visit
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum is the former winter home of Henry Flager, a very wealthy industrialist who lived from 1830-1913. The 75 room mansion was built in 1902 as a wedding present to Flager's third wife. It became a museum in 1960. In addition to the house itself, the facility includes a separate pavilion with a historic railcar, a cafe with lunch service, an exhibit area with rotating art displays, and a museum store.
Henry Flagler left his home in New York at an early age and went to work at a small grain business in Ohio. He had moderate success in business over the years, however his salt mining company failed after a drop in salt prices following the Civil War. Flagler's life changed forever in 1867 when he and John Rockefeller formed a partnership that would later become Standard Oil Corporation. Flagler became immensely wealthy from Standard Oil. He later invested in Florida real estate and developed luxury hotels. Flagler also was instrumental in building Florida railroads. A railroad he built from Miami to Key West, is widely considered the largest engineering project ever undertaken by one person. The Palm Beach mansion was constructed in 1902 in only 18 months and was typical of other Gilded Age mansions in that it incorporated art and design elements from classical European cultures but also had modern conveniences like indoor plumbing, electricity and central heat. Flagler only lived here for 11 years. He died in 1913 from complications related to a fall. The house eventually was sold to investors who incorporated it into a hotel which operated from 1925-1959. Due to financial challenges, the hotel faced closure and demolition in the late 1950s. A Flagler descendant acted to save the structure and opened the museum the next year. A hotel tower was later removed, and a pavilion was added in 2005.
A nice aspect of visiting here was that nearly the entire house was open, so you don't have to pay extra for a "behind the scenes" tour. Also, photography is permitted inside. An audio tour is included in the ticket price, and is a good choice if you want to learn more about the house and furnishings. Guided tours of the first floor are also generally available three times per day. If you are interested in that option, check the tour times prior to a visit. As for the standard tour, the home's decorations and designs were impressive, and the audio component was informative. One of the more interesting aspects of the tour, was the sense of responsibility for society that Flagler felt was his duty as a leader of industry in the Gilded Age. Also, one gets a sense of the good life that the Flaglers enjoyed and shared with their guests. The first floor of this house is far better than the second, so if time is limited stick with the ground floor. A wing in back of the house is a legacy from the hotel era, but still fits in well architecturally with the main house section. There are also rotating art exhibits at the museum. During the visit in 2012, there was an interesting collection of Tiffany lamps and windows. As of January 2015, paintings by French artist William Bouguereau were on display. Other sections in the museum worth visiting include a room with a history of both Flagler and the house, a room with beautiful lace designs, and the outdoor pavilion with a handsome railcar. Palm Beach is not exactly saturated with historical attractions, so if history is your thing, this museum is one of best local options. While it will mainly appeal to historical types, the museum had enough elegance and charm to at least be moderately interesting to a general audience. Also, it's interesting to learn about the man who perhaps more than any other built modern Florida.
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