In 1956, one of Palm Beach’s true treasures, an institution that has helped define the island, was nearly demolished. Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s grand Palm Beach estate, had fallen into a state of disrepair and was destined for the scrap heap. That is until Jean Flagler Matthews, granddaughter of Palm Beach’s original snowbird and Standard Oil tycoon, rescued the Gilded Age mansion from certain destruction, establishing the Flagler Museum on June 5, 1959. Since then, millions of visitors have flocked to the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum for a chance to reconnect with an America that was on the up and up: the Manifest Destiny had been completed with the west won; the fissure caused by the Civil War was on the mend and the horrors of the Great War were but only a small speck on the horizon; America was beginning to realize its great industrial might; and the riches of the one-percent was the thing of New York tabloid gossip. Dubbed the Gilded Age by the great American humorist Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Whitehall became a beacon of great American excess, the Southern most point of the Northeast’s migratory recreation.
Now, 55 years later, the Flagler Museum sits as an unofficial mascot of the island, and figurative and concrete landmark of modern Florida, a grandiose brick and mortar reminder of the man who forged a railroad along the spine of Florida, laying the foundation for the modern day Sunshine State. To celebrate not only the man who had a vision to “go to Key West,” the wherewithal to do so, and the museum that bares his name, the Flagler Museum will host its annual Founder’s Day, this year ringing in its 56th birthday, by inviting visitors to experience the historical landmark free of charge. The museum represents a tangible history of what Flagler’s Florida looked like and gives guests a chance to see what drove the man to continue what many called “Flagler’s Folly,” as he forged Florida East Coast Railway to Key West, all the while laying the foundation of the state’s economy, tourism and agriculture, which holds true to this day.
- Come experience all the Gilded Age glamour Friday, June 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. free of charge.
One Whitehall Way
Palm Beach, FL 33480