The Flagler Museum in Palm Beach is a staple in South Florida history and a place definitely worth checking out. It’s located on the island of Palm Beach near the famous and ritzy shopping street: Worth Avenue. Nearly everything on Palm Beach Island is grand, so you can expect the Flagler Museum to be as well.
The Island is full of manicured lawns and insanely steep real estate, saved mostly for the very rich and/or famous. Which was pretty much what the Flagler Museum represented back in the day. It’s a great area to explore and check out!
About the Flagler Museum, Palm Beach
Henry Flagler left his family’s Vermont farm at age 14 with 9 cents and 2 ham sandwiches. (14?! and NINE cents?!) He obviously did well for himself because he teamed up with John D. Rockefeller to start the Standard Oil Company.
If you aren’t familiar with the Flagler name and how it relates to Florida, Henry Flagler (and the Standard Oil Company) are responsible for extending the Florida East Coast Railway all the way down the Florida Keys via the Overseas Railway. (You can see the abandoned Overseas Highway while driving down the newer 7 Mile Highway).
Henry Flagler built Whitehall (now known as the Flagler Museum) in 1902 as a wedding present to his new wife, which was also his third wife. Henry’s third wife was 34…he was 71. She wanted an opulent winter retreat and it was indeed opulent. It has painted ceilings and 24k gold ceiling moldings. It has prime waterfront real estate with views of Downtown West Palm Beach.
The home is quite large and there are lots of rooms to see with ornate ceilings and intricate furniture. Another fun fact of the house is that the original electrician was Thomas Edison.
What to See
As stated above, the house is very ornate with lots of detail in the ceilings. Even if you tour just the downstairs (which is what we did), you’ll have plenty to see. Make sure you see the garden, courtroom and head out back to where the railway pavilion is.
The ceilings are something to take particular notice of. They are probably one of the most impressive parts of the house.
The Pavilion is located out back next to the waterway and beyond the forest of palm trees. The glass enclosure is beautiful to walk through and a popular place for events to be held. It also has Henry Flagler’s original private railcar that you can walk through and explore.
Bonus: The Banyon Tree
This is technically not on the property but it’s interesting to see and right next door. From the exit, take a right down the path towards the water. If you’ve never seen a tree like this, it’s neat to look at and it’s a pretty path along the water.
Tours & Hours
The Flagler Museum has guided tours throughout the day at specific times (though they are currently postponed 2020). If they are offering them when you decide to go, I’d recommend taking it. It’s a bit ironic that I’m recommending it because truth be told, my parents and I actually bailed sneakily out a side door mid-way through. My disinterest in museums is no secret and at some point, I just couldn’t feign interest anymore.
BUT, the tour has a lot of information about the Flagler family, how Henry Flagler helped expand south Florida with the Florida East Coast Railway, and interesting facts about the house.
Luckily, if you have a short attention span or a limited amount of time, you can do a self-guided tour by listening to an app or using the brochure.
Hours: Currently, (2020) they are open from 10 am – 5 pm and are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Tickets: $18 for Adults, $10 for Youth, and $3 for Children.
*Check out their website for current information and hours.
The Flagler Museum in Palm Beach is definitely worth stopping by if you’re on the island. It gives good insight into the development of south Florida and a different perspective of what life must have been like on Palm Beach in the early 1900s.