Our Heritage

Tea Room, Flagler Museum
24. Palm Beach, FL


Flagler Tea Room Pavilion Entrance, Palm Beach, FLIn 2006, and again in 2008, the Flagler Kenan Pavilion at the Henry Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida garnered awards for the Smith Architectural Group and Hedrick Brothers Construction Company. This Beaux-Arts style of architecture building was built to house the personal railcar of Henry Morrison Flagler, the original occupant of the house turned hotel turned museum; it also accommodates the museum’s Café des Beaux-Arts. The Beaux-Arts style of architecture is named for the French school of architecture, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It became popular in the late 1800s and was introduced to the United States by American architects who attended the school. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago formally introduced Beaux-Arts style architecture, and many public buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were built using this form during what became known as the Gilded Age. Three of the most well-known buildings in the world show prime examples of Beaux-Arts architecture: New York’s Grand Central Terminal (train station), the New York Public Library, and the Paris Opera house.

The Gilded Age, a satirical term invented by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, referred to the thirty years of major economic growth in United States’ history starting around 1870. This economic growth was helped enormously by the growing popularity and expansion of the railroads, and other heavy industries such as factories and coal mining. The Gilded Age’s main impact on society during this time was the increased ability to mechanize the ways in which products were made and to make them at a cheaper price. This allowed for increased worker efficiency but at the same time lessened the need for skilled workers.

Henry Flagler, along with other well-known financiers and wealthy businessmen, such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan, paved the way for a new social model in American history. The buildings they built and the houses they lived in, were less of a display of wanting to be noticed for their wealth but for their accomplishments. Where freedom and initiative show distinction and technology has allowed us to become the best that humans can be.

The Flagler Kenan Pavilion so named to honor Henry Flagler’s third wife, Mary Lily Kenan, is built on the grounds of Whitehall. Whitehall, the wedding present from Flagler to Kenan, was the winter home for the Flaglers until Mr. Flagler’s death in 1913. Built in 1902 in just 18 months, Whitehall had over 100,000 square feet and over 75 rooms. The architects, John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, both trained at the École des Beaux-Arts. These two had designed the Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine, Florida for Flagler fifteen years earlier. Their careers had blossomed and they were in the middle of designing the New York Public Library. Hastings became one of only four Americans to ever receive the gold medal from the Royal Institute of British Architecture during the Gilded Age of Architecture.

Beaux-Arts architecture is known for magnificent architectural statements and its formal and opulent embellishments are seen as the perfect way to express both the owner’s wealth and pride. Exterior features of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture include: flat or low-pitched roofs, decorative floral patterns, garlands and shields adorning the walls, symmetrical facades, rustic stonework on the first story, balustrades on the roof line, pedimented or arched windows, porches and porticoes with columns and quoins (the outer corner of a wall, usually stone blocks). Interior features are grandiose as well, featuring pilasters, coffered ceilings, arched openings, marbled fireplaces and elaborate chandeliers.

After Henry Flagler died, Mary Lily moved out of the house and it remained closed for three years until 1916. She visited in 1917 after marrying Robert Worth Bingham but upon her death later that year, her niece, Louise Clisby Wise Lewis, inherited the mansion. Ms. Lewis sold the property to investors who had the building converted to a hotel. A ten-story addition, including a 300-room tower, was added. The hotel was in business from 1925 until 1959 with the original part of the house being used for guest suites, lobbies, a bar, card rooms and lounges. However, the building was not kept in good repair and in 1959 it was in danger of being torn down. Jean Flagler Matthews, Henry Flagler’s granddaughter, learned of the demolition plans had a non-profit corporation formed in order to purchase the property. The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum was created and the building restored. This included removing eight floors of the hotel tower and returning many of the original furnishings to the house. A 1,249 pipe organ was re-installed and on February 6, 1960 a “Restoration Ball” was held to open Whitehall to the public. Whitehall is a now a National Historic Landmark and has been called, “America’s most romantic National Historic Landmark and Museum.”

Flagler Museum Tea Room Rail Car
The design and construction of the Flagler Kenan Pavilion was not an historic restoration but it replicates a turn-of-the-century railway station. It was designed to authentically match the architectural style of the Flagler Museum. The Flagler Kenan Pavilion is the first Beaux des Arts architectural style building to be built in the United States in more than 60 years. The railway car housed inside the building, was Henry Flagler’s personal Railcar No. 91, which he used to travel throughout Florida. The railcar, built in 1886, was lifted into place by a crane and the Pavilion constructed around it.

The 8,100 square foot Pavilion was designed to replicate the early 1900s train car era. Vaulted ceilings, elaborate columns and lighting fixtures surround the priceless Museum possessions and displays. The Café des Beaux-Arts restaurant regularly hosts special events such as Mother’s Day Teas and Valentine’s Day dinners and the Pavilion, fancy Red Carpet Balls.