Our daughter lives near the southeast coast of Florida. While attending schools here in Colorado, she decided she wasn’t so fond of snow and cold and ended up in Florida. So, as you can imagine, my wife and I are going to visit him periodically. This time we flew in and out of Fort Lauderdale.
There are so many options of things to do in Florida that it would take a while to list them. Of course, Disney World is at the top of the list. But we’ve “been there and done this” with theme parks with our kids for the past few years, so we’re looking for other options when we’re at it. (Plus, I’m old enough now that when I think about maybe walking around a place like Universal Studios, my knees start to hurt.)
Our daughter suggested that we visit the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach. We didn’t really know the background of the museum, but something with a bit of history looked promising. The visit turned out to be most interesting.
Among other things, Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913) made a lot of money in the oil business. Flagler and John D. Rockefeller were the founders of Standard Oil. Flagler was also instrumental in building the Florida East Coast Railroad. (If you’ve been to St. Augustine before, a notable structure in the city center is the Lightner Museum, which was the old Alcazar Hotel. The Alcazar was commissioned by Flagler.)
The museum was a winter house that Flagler and his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler, used from 1902 to 1913. Flagler built the house, then called Whitehall, as a gift for her. That’s quite a gift: 75 rooms and approximately 100,000 square feet of space. As you would expect, when it was built, the house had the latest amenities. One was a central heating system, which was actually to combat humidity and reduce the risk of mold. There was no air conditioning until the late 1990s, so the house had to rely on tropical breezes to keep it cool for almost 80 years.
You use audio devices for a self-guided tour. The museum is quite impressive, with an incredible amount of art, much of it from Italy and France, and some Roman and Greek sculptures. You may remember that the era between the Civil War and 1900 was called the Golden Age. Mark Twain wrote a book about it. The Golden Age certainly had its problems – greedy bankers and industrialists ran things over and over again. And at the expense of working class Americans.
After finishing our tour, while in awe, I also felt like Flagler was able to acquire all of this apparently for the purpose of showing how sophisticated Americans can be – we bought your art and l brought here!
It is not difficult to get to the museum, which is not far from the beach. See flaglermuseum.us for more details. One thing that didn’t impress us was the traffic on I-95, which reminded me of the freeways in Los Angeles. If you get caught in a traffic jam, be prepared to wait a bit.
Doug McCormick is retired from the Air Force after spending 21 years as a space operator. He spent 14 years as a defense contractor with Air Force Space Command. He is now a tour guide and has started his own business, American History Tours LLC, specializing in taking people to places associated with significant American history. His e-mail address is [email protected].