Last year we spent our Christmas of white in sand instead of snow. I'm all for tradition and evergreens and warm woolen mittens, but 80 degrees sipping frozen fruity drinks makes for a fine tradition as well. On our trip we made a memorable stop at Whitehall, the Palm Beach home of Henry Flagler.
Henry Flagler was a contemporary of John D. Rockefeller and their partnership eventually grew into the Standard Oil Corporation. Although Flagler remained on the Board of Directors of Standard Oil, he gave up his day-to-day involvement in the corporation in order to pursue his interests in Florida.
Realizing the need for a sound transportation system to support his Florida hotel ventures (the Breakers Hotel and Royal Palm Hotel to name a few), Flagler purchased short line railroads in what would later become known as the Florida East Coast Railway. Flagler's railways led to the development of many areas of Florida including Miami, which was an unincorporated area at the time. When the city was incorporated in 1896, its citizens wanted to honor the man responsible for its growth by naming it "Flagler". He declined the honor, persuading them to use an old Indian name, "Mayaimi". Flagler encouraged fruit farming and settlement along his railway line and made many gifts to build hospitals, churches and schools in Florida.
A story in the New York Herald described Whitehall, the Palm Beach home of Henry Flagler as, "More wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world..."Flagler built the 55-room, 60,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion, Whitehall, as a wedding present for his wife. The couple used the home as a winter retreat from 1902 until Flagler's death in 1913, establishing the Palm Beach season for the wealthy of the Gilded Age.
Christmas Tree in the Grand Hall
Drawing Room with Piano