Dec 08, 2016
The Magnificent Whitehall - Palm Beach, FL
The New York Herald once described the magnificent Whitehall as "more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world". Whitehall is one of the most notable Flagler buildings alongside the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach and the Flagler College in St. Augustine.
Constructed by Henry Flagler as a wedding gift for his wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler, Whitehall features 75 rooms and spans across 100,000 square feet. The stunning Gilded Age mansion was used as the couple’s winter retreat from 1902 until 1913 when Flagler passed away.
In order to design the mansion, Flagler commissioned Thomas Hastings and John Carrere, the same architects who designed Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine. The architects both studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and avidly practiced the Beaux Arts architectural style that was popularized at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Carrere and Hastings also collaborated to design the Fifth Avenue Henry Clay Frick mansion and the New York Public Library, both highly celebrated Gilded Age landmarks.
The two architects designed Whitehall’s magnificent exterior, the layout of the interior as well as the stunning marble entrance hall with its regal double staircase. The mansion’s façade features massive marble columns and are barrel tiled roof. The structure is constructed around a central courtyard and has two floors, a basement and an attic. The first floor has twelve guest rooms and the main public rooms. The second floor has servants’ quarters on the western side and rooms for guests’ servants in the attic’s east side.
Whitehall is located on Brelsford Point on Lake Worth’s eastern bank along with The Breakers Hotel at the east and Flagler’s Hotel Royal Poinciana on the north. The splendid mansion is surrounded by a magnificent wrought iron fence with lavish decorations. The home’s interior was designed by Pottier & Stymus, a New York firm. The interior features period rooms in remarkable styles such as the Italian Renaissance, Louis XV, Louis XIV and Louis XVI as well as Francis 1.
Flagler and his wife regularly entertained when they spent their winters at Whitehall. The house was kept closed until the season of 1916 following Flagler’s death in 1913. In 1917, the home was visited by Mary Lily only once after her marriage to Robert Worth Bingham. She died later that year and Whitehall was left to Louise Clisby Wise Lewis, her niece. The group of investors, who purchased Whitehall from Ms. Lewis, converted the mansion, along with an added 250+ bedroom, eleven story tower into a hotel. During the hotel’s operation years from 1925-1959, the mansion’s original area was used as lobbies, lounges, guest suites, a bar and card rooms.
In 1959, Whitehall was set out to be destroyed. Jean Flagler Matthews, the granddaughter of Henry Flagler, formed a nonprofit corporation after learning of this. The corporation, named Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, purchased the property in the same year and was opened to the public with a lavish ‘Restoration Ball’, in February of the following year.
Today, Whitehall renamed to Henry Flagler Museum, is visited by almost 100,000 people from all over the world. Among the fascinating exhibits within the mansion is Henry Flagler's private Railcar No. 91.
Fact Source: The Henry Flagler Museum
Photo Source: The Palm Beach Post