The House of Henry M. Flagler, Esq., Palm Beach, Florida.
From AMERICAN ESTATES AND GARDENS by Barr Ferree published 1906
LIKE many great modern houses, the Flagler mansion at Palm Beach is comparatively simple in its external treatment. It is eminently stately and serene, the great colonnade of the main front being the chief external adornment. The columns are monumental in scale, and the five great arched openings behind them, and the large windows above are direct expressions of the internal splendor of dimensions which the whole of the exterior admirably denotes.
Architecturally, it is two stories in height, the attic story being in the roofs, which are long and low and sloping, and whose varying heights have been cleverly utilized in giving variety to the silhouette. It is classic in feeling and in detail but bears unmistakably the character of a great American country house, admirably adapted to its environment in the beautiful Florida landscape in which it has been placed.
The front is a hundred and seventy-five feet long and the depth a hundred and fifty-five feet. Such dimensions would be intolerable in a Northern house; but they are none too great here, since the center of the dwelling is occupied by a court, about ninety feet by fifty feet, spacious enough to amply light all the rooms and passages that open upon it, and forming a most entrancing center to this magnificent home.
Directly before one, as one enters the hall, is the double staircase of white statuary marble to the upper story. It occupies fully a half of the whole length of the hall, standing in a recess of its own, the beginning of the stairs being marked off with four columns of polished American white and green marble, with a great marble vase before each group. The handrails are beautiful examples of modern bronze work; before each ramp is a fine piece of old tapestry; a central window looks into the court. The walls are of white and green marble, and at each end is a screen of double columns, standing one close behind the other, forming inner vestibules to the rooms that open from either end. The ceiling is richly carved, and treated in gray with ornamentation in solid gold; in the center is a large circular painting by Benevenotti. The chairs, tables, and chests with which the hall is furnished were expressly made for this room, and are fine examples of costly workmanship. The splendid marble floor is partly covered with superb rugs. The general treatment is Louis XVI.
On the right of the hall is the drawing-room, and on the left the library. The latter is an agreeable room to read in. Nothing is wanting to heighten the effect. The style is Renaissance. The walls have a high wainscot of Circassian walnut, with red Spanish damask of two shades above. The walnut mantelpiece between the windows is paneled with brass ornaments and is richly gilt, the overmantel being filled with a life-size portrait of Mr. Flagler.
Then comes the art gallery and music-room, an apartment of large size, admirably designed for the choice collection of paintings it contains. It is treated in old ivory and antique gold. In the center of the ceiling is a copy of Guido Reni’s “Aurora.” It is lighted with jeweled crystal chandeliers. At one end is a large pipe organ.
The next room is the billiard-room, a quaint apartment in the Swiss style. The beamed ceiling is distinctly Teutonic in decorative feeling.
The grand salon is on the right of the hall, corresponding to the library. It is Louis XVI. in style and is a sumptuous apartment in French gray, the walls paneled in gold and gray brocaded silk. It contains a beautiful mantel of white statuary marble; the ceiling has decorated medallions; the portieres are richly embroidered, and the furniture is elaborate and costly.
Immediately adjoining it is the dining-room, most hospitable in size. The style is Francois I., and the color scheme a rich green; the walls have a paneled wainscot of satinwood below and a rich brocade above. The elaborate mantelpiece supports a mirror. The beautiful ceiling is coffered in large squares, with ornaments in high relief, and is green and cream. The furniture was expressly made for this room. Adjoining the dining room is a small breakfast-room, in ivory enamel; the ceiling ornamentation is tipped with gold; the furniture is mahogany with bronze mountings.
Beyond is the kitchen, with pantries, serving-rooms, storage-rooms, and other dependencies, filling an extension beyond the main building. In a corresponding space on the other side are two offices, one of which is set apart for Mr. Flagler’s personal use.
The rear of the house—in the space on the farther side of the court and corresponding to the hall—is filled with a ballroom. The style is Louis XV., and the color scheme white and gold. Five great openings on either side form the motif: on one side they are windows; on the opposite side they are curtained doorways. The spaces between have round-arched panels filled with mirrors. The hangings and draperies are of Rose du Barry silk. The decorations are almost purely architectural, the doorways, windows, and mirror panels being encased within a wood paneling. The panels over the doors and windows are copies by Gatty, of Paris. The ceiling is treated in large rectangles, the alternate ones being the richer. The room is illuminated by lights dependent from the ceiling and by side lights. The furniture, as befits a ballroom, is confined to low stools and benches.
The bedrooms, which fill the upper story, are fitted up with rare taste and fine individuality of treatment. Much of their furniture has been specially designed for the particular rooms in which it is placed. Unlike a great country house in the North, this vast Southern palace has no outbuildings and subsidiary structures. One does not keep a stable of horses at Palm Beach, and one does not need elaborately planned and cultivated gardens to set off one’s house. Plants and flowers, trees and shrubs, grow here unaided and with rare Southern profuseness and rapidity.
A survivor, the Flagler Museum HERE
A Virtual Tour HERE
A Video HERE
Railcar No. 91 HERE
Flagler’s Oversea RR HERE