Whitehall, Henry Morrison Flagler’s glorious Gilded Age mansion on the island of Palm Beach, has had people talking since 1902, when the iconic industrialist – a key figure in Florida’s development – built the sprawling 75-room “cottage” for his wife. Among those awed by the opulence of the estate was a writer at the New York Herald, who gushed that it was “more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.”
When a group of second-graders from Palm Beach Day Academy, the oldest independent school in Florida, visited Whitehall, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the home of the Flagler Museum, they had something to say, too. “This place is bigger than the president’s house,” one student remarked.
The kids, who are among the more than 80,000 visitors who roam the halls of the Beaux Arts beauty each year, wondered at the massive marble columns, gasped at the grand double staircase and snagged selfies in Flagler’s private railcar.
Railcar No. 91, built in 1886, no longer sits along the tracks built by Flagler, the founder of Standard Oil and of what would become the Florida East Coast Railway. Today it is housed in a sun-filled glass addition to the estate known as the Flagler Kenan Pavilion. With its historically restored interior and exterior, the railcar looks ready to whisk Flagler and his esteemed guests along the Over-Sea Railroad to the Florida Keys.
When the Palm Beach Day Academy kids were asked how Flagler may have passed the time on a long railroad journey, one student suggested he may have listened to the radio. While it was equipped with every luxury available to the turn-of-the-last century traveller, Railcar No. 91 did not have a radio. If it did, another student was quite sure that Flagler’s program of choice would have been “Bloomberg.”
A special thanks to Olympus Entertainment for producing this video.