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Paris Singer and a group of investors purchased Henry Flagler's Palm Beach Whitehall mansion for $50,000 in 1924. A 10-story, 250 room 4.5 million dollar hotel was constructed on the west side of the mansion in 1926. The hotel addition was demolished in 1963 and the mansion was eventually restored.

Whitehall is a 75-room Gilded Age mansion open to the public in Palm Beach, Florida in the United States. Completed in 1902, it is a major example of neoclassical Beaux Arts architecture designed by  Carrère and Hastings for Henry Flagler, a leading captain of industry in the late 19th century, and a leading developer of Florida as a tourist destination. The building is listed a National Historic Landmark. It now houses the Flagler Museum, named after its builder.

Henry Flagler, one  of  the  founders  of  Standard Oil, built Whitehall for his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan.

The site of the home was purchased for $50,000 in 1893 (as of 2010 that would be $1,197,562.39) by Flagler; later surveyed for construction in July 1900 and the home completed in time for Flagler and his wife to move in on February 6, 1902. The architects were Carrère and Hastings, who had earlier designed the Ponce de Leon Hotel and several other buildings in St. Augustine for Flagler. Whitehall was to be a winter residence, and Henry gave it to Mary Lily as a wedding present. They would travel to Palm Beach each year in one of their own private railcars, one of which was No. 91.

Flagler died of injuries sustained in falling down a flight of marble stairs at Whitehall in 1913, at the age of 83. Mary Lily died four years later, and the home was devised to her niece Louise Clisby Wise Lewis, who sold the property to investors. They constructed a 300-room, ten-story addition to the west side of the building, obliterating Mr. Flagler's offices, the housekeeper's apartment, and altering the original kitchen and pantry area.  Carrere and Hastings were the architects of the 1925 reconstruction. In 1939 it was described as a $4,000,000 building and Palm Beach’s second-largest hotel.

In 1959, the site was saved from demolition by one of Henry Flagler's granddaughters Jean Flagler Matthews. She established the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum non-profit corporation, which purchased the building in 1959, opening it as a museum in 1960. The upper ten stories of the hotel addition were demolished in 1963 in preparing the museum for the public.

Today, Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as the Flagler Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits, and special programs. It also hosts a variety of local galas and balls throughout the year. The Museum is located at Cocoanut Row and Whitehall Way, Palm Beach.

When it was completed in 1902, Whitehall was hailed by the New York Herald as "more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world." It was designed in the Beaux Arts style; meant to rival the extravagant mansions in Newport, Rhode Island.

Distinct from these northern homes, Whitehall had no outbuildings or subsidiary structures. Nor had it elaborately planned or cultivated gardens. Plants, flowers, trees and shrubs were allowed to grow unaided.

The mansion is built around a large open-air central courtyard and is modeled after palaces in Spain and Italy. Three stories tall with several wings, the mansion has fifty-five fully restored rooms furnished with period pieces. These rooms are large with marble floors, walls and columns, murals on the ceilings, and heavy gilding

Officially opened February 4, 2005, the $4.5-million Flagler Kenan Pavilion is the first addition to the property since 1925.  The 8,100-square-foot (750 m2) pavilion is named after the mogul and William R. Kenan, Jr., Flagler’s engineer, friend and brother-in-law. It was designed in the Beaux-Arts manner by Jeffery W. Smith of Palm Beach-based Smith Architectural Group, Inc. and took almost four years to build. The featured display in this pavilion is Flagler's restored No. 91 rail car. It also houses the seasonal Pavilion Café.

Whitehall Hotel

Long after the death of Henry Flagler in 1913, his residence, Whitehall, recieved a ten-story addition that opened as the Whitehall Hotel on New Year's Eve, 1927.  The Post described its atmospher as an "apartment hotel" and more formal than the Royal Poinciana Hotel, with dining and dancing in its beautiful Jardin Royal by the lake.  When Flagler's heirs converted Whitehall to the Flagler Museum, most of the additions were demolished.

commercial buildings, and homes. Several new hotels had opened before the hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 struck. Even before the stock market crash of 1929, several declared bankruptcy, searched for new investors, or changed names and management. Others were sold, including the Whitehall Hotel in June 1929, for $2,600 plus its $3 million of debt.

Although still operating, the Seaboard Air Line Railway declared bankruptcy in 1930. The same year, a new depot was built for the Florida East Coast Railway, which followed Seaboard into bankruptcy in 1931. Both companies were managed by court-appointed receivers for many years. Despite all these problems, the private sector in Palm Beach continued to build new houses.

The Depression 

Zell Davis, who served as state’s attorney from 1968 to 1972, first lived on 21st Street in Riviera Beach, near his Bahamian relatives. While others sank into poverty in the late 1920s, Davis’ family prospered as bootleggers during Prohibition. Davis moved to a large house on 35th Street in West Palm Beach in 1931, when he was five, and remained aware of his good fortune during the Depression years as he recounted in a 2004 oral history interview:


Federal law enforcement officers enforce

the prohibition laws by breaking up a still in 1921.


I would go up on the weekends to Riviera Beach and see some of my cousins and see my grandparents. … All of those families I knew up there were on the dole [welfare]. The truck would come sometimes when I’d be up there visiting and they’d say, “Come on out to the highway and help us carry the stuff in.” There would be bags of prunes and flour and sugar and all sorts of stuff like that. They were very, very poor. … Clothing, anything I’d outgrown, my mother would always take it up and it would be distributed. Christmas time, we would load up our car and take baskets of fruit and presents up to all those people in the neighborhood.

Visible today to the west of the Grand Ballroom is the ground floor of the 1925 Whitehall Hotel addition, originally used as the hotel’s dining room. Above this ground floor was a ten-story tower of 300 hotel rooms. In 1963, this tower was removed in order to return the home to its original appearance during Flagler’s life.

Originally, the area to the west of the Grand Ballroom was a columned, marble floored veranda which overlooked a small garden and provided a commanding view of Lake Worth. This garden was flanked by two one-story wings, the south wing housed Flagler’s office and an office for his secretary while the north wing housed a servants’ dining room and housekeeper’s apartment. Adjacent was the main kitchen and pantry. When Whitehall was converted to a hotel in 1925, these wings were  removed to make way for the Hotel tower addition. The kitchen and pantry were also altered by the hotel and no longer exist in original form.

 Today, the West Room and the other parts of the hotel addition house the Museum’s Archives, the Museum Store, the Business Office, the Lecture Room, and space for Museum programs.

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