Building Description Henry Flagler Mansion - Whitehall, Palm Beach Florida
Including porticos, the structure originally measured 256 feet on the east-west axis, and 176 feet on the north-south axis. This does not include the remaining addition on the west, which was part of the now-demolished hotel.
The following description of Whitehall appeared in the New York Herald on March 30th, 1902:
"More wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world is Whitehall, the new home Henry M. Flagler has built in the land of flowers for his bride. The Vatican, the forests, the quarries, the old salons, the art shops and the looms have contributed some of their choicest treasures to deck this marvellous structure. It is in nature's garden spot on the banks of Lake Worth, at Palm Beach, Fla. Pilgrims with poetic fancy will find in Whitehall beauties that are grouped nowhere else on earth. To go from room to room is to go from century to century, from one period of art to another. The golden fairies have had no thought of cost on this their most exquisite creation.
It is to turn back the pages of time to visit Whitehall. Pitting to the place and the associations, the architecture is that of Spain, but its exterior gives no suggestion of its glories of interior decoration and ornamentation, and it is within the walls, and not outside, the artist will find the charms which hold him captive.
In every detail in this palace the work has been so thorough that he who visits it would be led to believe the structure was built a hundred or more years ago instead of being a product of the present day, just released from the builder's hands. Men have been working day and night for a year in this country and in Italy and in France, making and collecting the decorations, and now their work is ended. In the grouping of sculpture, tapestry, rugs, antique furniture, ceramics, bronzes and panels there is nothing in the world to equal Whitehall. When the doors are opened to guests Mrs. Flagler can bid her friends welcome to a home which in point of grandeur queen or princess never knew.
In electrical work the masters of that branch have done wonders in Whitehall. In light, as in every other detail the harmony of each room has been maintained. From the jewelled brilliancy of the illumination in the grand ballroom to the soft glow from the pink or gold or green bulbs in the chambers on the second floor everything is in keeping.
Joseph. A. McDonald, of the firm of McGuire & McDonald, builders of the Ponce de Leon, built Whitehall from the designs and under the personal supervision of Messrs, Carrere & Hastings, the architects of the Ponce de Leon.
In the interior the grand hall, staircase and second story hall were executed by the Pottier & Stymus Company from the designs and under the supervision of Messrs, Carrere & Hastings.
All the other interior work and all of the furnishings were executed from the designs and under the direction of William P. Stymus Jr. of the Pottier & Stymus Company.
As its name suggests, Whitehall is a palace of white. As you approach the broad marble steps wich lead to the colonnade, the lines of white are broken by the cocoanut palms and the orange trees in front. Once within the great bronze grill doors the fancies of the fairies begin to unfold. The hall is of marble. It is 110 ft long and forty feet wide—large enough, almost, to marshall half a regiment. The ceiling is twenty feet high, with a dome in the centre upon which are decorations in canvas representing the "crowning of Knowledge". Cameo medallions typifying the Earth, the Sea, the Air and the Soil stud the ceiling, and there are panels representing Prosperity and Happiness. In niches are life sized statues, Peace, Science, Pensive and Marine, while sixteen marble columns at the end of the hall and at the approach to the grand staircase add to the imposing grandeur of the whole. Panels of rare Aubusson tapestry are hung at either end of this hall, representing Faith, Family, Patriotism and Humanity. One of the glories of this hall is a Kirmanshah rug, soft in color and of Persian design. It is forty-two feet long by twenty-seven feet wide, the largest of its kind ever made.
Many of the chairs and important pieces of furniture are richly carved in Louis XIV design, covered with tapestries and silk velvets. The clock is a masterpiece in bronze, standing nine feet high. It represents Time riding the world in a cloud. The top is surmounted by rays of the sun, and below the bronze is made to show the fruits of the earth.
In an opposite corner is an antique Florentine chest, with a decorated panel representing the marriage of Boccaccio, Windows in the hall are draped in Spanish tapestry of green, and the portieres are plain green velour, with antique of gold appliqued borders. Four slender pyramid trees, ten feet high stand near the windows to complete the color scheme.
On the left of the hall is the library, which is of the Italian Renaissance period. The walls are hung in rich Spanish tapestry in two shades of red, and the portieres are of red velvet. The windows are hung with Arabian laces, and over the mantel is a large oil painting of Mr. Flagler.
Aubusson tapestry furniture, carved walnut chairs and a richly carved table, with Savonnerie rug in rich tones of red and border of gold, rare books and paintings complete the furnishings of the library. One of its pieces is an old painting representing the landing of Ponce de Leon in Florida.
As the music room is hung with fine paintings, it is actually an art gallery as well and is designed after the Louis XIV period. Size 66 x 21 feet. This room also has a domed ceiling treated with a decorative canvas panel of the aurora, which is lighted at night by invisible electric bulbs.
The pipe organ is one of the largest ever placed in a private house in this country. Every detail of color and design employed in the decoration of the room is carried out in the organ case. A handsome piano with Boucher panels goes to make up a complete music room. There are some subjects in Aubusson tapestry furniture and richly carved banquet Savonnerie seats, and two chandeliers of cut glass, with sunbursts of electric lights above. The floor is finished in selected oak, laid in herringbone pattern.
In the billiard room the style is that of the Swiss. The mantel is of Caen stone, the flat beam ceiling of oak, and the coloring is of gold and shades of green and red.
A private suite of rooms overlooking Lake Worth, at the southwest corner of the house, is for the use of Mr. Flagler and his secretaries. The furnishing is of mahogany and the walls and ceilings are treated to match, with floors of oak.
On the other side of the court from the library, for Whitehall is built with a tropical open court as are all the palaces of Spain, is the salon. It is 42 x 30 feet, and in Louis XVI design. It is treated in a delicate shade of gray and silver, instead of the usual white and gold.
The ceiling is kept soft in tone, and has a beautiful canvas medallion in the centre, with four panels in the four corners. The side walls are arranged in panels, and finished with a gold and gray silk brocatelle. Handsome silk lace curtains hang in the windows, and the draperies are of the same material as on the side walls. There is a carved statuary marble mantel, which is one of the handsomest objects in the room.
One of the most exquisite pieces of art in the house is the miniature statue of Venus de Milo on the mantel, which is reflected in the mirror. A Savonnerie rug of pale green and gray, with light colorings in the border, covers the floor; there are richly embroidered silk portieres, with delicate roses, executed on a gray satin plush: on the lamhrequins are the embroidered heads of Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe.
There are many odd pieces of furniture in the Louis periods, upholstered in antique pieces of silk; also two commodes with marble tops, richly ornamented in bronze; four silver standards for lighting the room, a set of Aubusson tapestry and embroidered furniture, and two richly carved tables, one of the Louis XVI, and one of the Louis XIV period. One work of art in the salon is a Louis XV carved screen; another screen at the opposite end of the room is of the Louis XVT period, made with an antique decorated medallion.
A grand piano, in gray and silver, to correspond with the treatment of the room, has an artistic painting on the inner lid, representing music. The cover is an old piece of silk that was once used as an altar cloth. The music cabinet is also in gray and silver, with decorated panels.
From the salon one enters the grand dining room, treated in Francois I, design (size 41 x 23 feet). The room is finished in satinwood, with the ceiling divided into panels and ornamented with papier mache in tones of green coloring, relieved by gold. The mantel is a masterpiece of carving, some of it being so fine that a magnifying glass is needed to see the details of the work. A panel of Aubusson is introduced in the frame.
The walls are hung in two shades of green tapestry and the windows are draped with plain green silk velour, having bands of the Aubusson tapestry in old colorings; the portieres are of the same, in different designs of tapestry. The dining room chairs are covered with Aubusson tapestry, which was made especially for each. The long table of satinwood, to correspond with the room, is covered with a cloth of plain green velour, having appliqued border and monogram in the centre. Window curtains are of rich Cobert lace, and rug of Savonnerie, the centre being plain green, with rich border, representing fruit and game.
The carving on the buffets and china cabinets is some of the most artistic ever executed in this country. The room is lighted by four bronze and crystal chandeliers. The andirons are of bronze and floor of oak, with parquet border.
The breakfast room, adjoining the grand dining room is Elizabethan in style, and the room most used by the household when entertaining en famille (size 23 x 21 feet). The walls are panelled in wood to the cornice, which is finished in old ivory, and a shelf containing Delft and Japanese porcelains is placed around the walls of the room at mantel height. The mantel is made of Pavonazza marble, with rich bronze mountings, and it is over this mantel that the painting of Henriette de Bourbon hangs. Arabian lace curtains and draperies of silk tapestry hang at the windows, while the portieres are of gold silk velour, with embroidered borders. The furniture in the breakfast room is of mahogany in wax finish, profusely ornamented in bronze.
Back of this is a complete butler's pantry, kitchen, servants' dining room and sitting room, laundry and other rooms, complete in modern equipment.
For grandeur the ballroom has few equals anywhere, and is characteristic of the perfect type found in the time of Louis XV. Its dimensions are 91 x 37 feet. In color treatment it is white and gold, and the whole effect is soft in tone.
At the end of the room is a mezzanine for the orchestra, Between the long windows are mirrors, richly ornamented and divided into panels with handsome moulding. Boucher panels in an antique school of coloring have been introduced above the doors and windows, which represent the four seasons and other interesting subjects and which give the room a tone of the Old Masters. Everything is extremely handsome, from the window draperies in two shades of rose du Barry silk damask to the beautifully carved banquet seats.
Light flashes from three jewelled chandeliers and jewelled brackets the same as in grand salons of the fifteenth century.
A rich bronze balustrade overlooks the marble staircase, and the principal decorations, as one descends to the hall, are some rare silk rugs hanging over the balustrade. A Byzantine antique fount stands on the first landing, filled with growing ferns.
The second story hall is spacious, with walls finished in two shades of green Spanish damask. Midway, looking out on the court, is a lounging place furnished with Italian pieces and having a handsome sedan chair, which has been converted into a cabinet. On either side of the archway is a carved Italian standard.
Remarkable as Mrs. Flagler's palace is in its artistic magnificence of salon, ballroom, library, music room, grand hall and dining room, its greatest charm to the art lover will be found in the multitude of styles and the wealth of detailed decorations in the chambers of the guests and in the chambers of the host and hostess. That Whitehall is to be gay with company is shown by the fact that there are sixteen guest chambers. Nearly all of these rooms are in a style and design separate and distinct, and representing an epoch in the world's history. Italy, France, Spain, England, the Orient and our own Colonial mansions have been studied to meet the requirements in order to carry out this idea. In the lavish effort to furnish every convenience for guests, nothing has been overlooked. From each of these sixteen rooms there is a private hallway leading to the main hall. There are double doors to each apartment to increase the privacy.
All of these rooms have over door panels connecting the trims to the cornice line, giving a unique architectural effect. The mantels all have mirrors in antique gold frames, detached from the mantels.
In passing from one room to another there is nothing to jar one's sense of taste in the color schemes of adjoining rooms. The fireplaces, andirons, locks and fixtures for lighting have all been carefully designed to be in keeping with the various rooms they are intended for.
Room One: Mrs. Flagler's Boudoir Remote
Contrary to the usual rule, Mrs. Flagler's boudoir is some distance from her chamber. This distance gives her privacy when desired, and also a beautiful outlook on Lake Worth. Its coloring is green, in Louis XVI design, with artistic papier mache introduced in the ceiling, which contains medallions of court ladies. The walls are finished in two shades of striped green, and the woodwork in cream. The mantel is Louis XVI, and handsomely carved. The window draperies are made of cream figured material with green passementiere borders. The furniture is covered with striped green silk tapestry with a plain green rug to harmonize.
Off this is a morning chamber, also Louis XVT. The walls in cream white, are covered with a design of Marechal Neil roses. This room is on the south side of the house, as are the next three.
Room Three: Bedrooms Variously Treated
First is one of the Colonial period, with cream ceiling, frieze and walls, the latter having a green figure. The furniture is green stained oak, with marquetry of white holly and ebony. The covering is of green and cream stripe, and carpet plain green Angora.
Passing into another chamber one finds a Colonial surrounding, 25 by 17 feet. Here the ceiling is treated in plain green, and woodwork made to form panels on the walls is painted sage green. Furniture coverings, window draperies and bedspread are all in sage green.
Last of all is a beautiful room in modern English style, 17 by 25 feet. The woodwork is also arranged in panels on the walls, with striped material in two shades of red introduced between the panels. The woodwork is odd, finished in what is known as "silver maple". The mantel has decorative panels in the upper part, in old school coloring. Furniture is of the same variety as the woodwork, with covering of cream figured silk tapestry.
Room Six: In Milady's Chamber
Most beautiful of all the bedchambers is that of Mrs. Flagler. The walls are of gold silk damask, the window draperies are of the same material, richly embroidered, and the curtains are of silk lace. The furniture is of the period of Louis XV. It is in two tones of pearl gray. The bed has a canopy draped with gold silk damask, and a bedspread of the same. Behind the canopy is an antique lace panel. Each corner of the bed is ornamented with a woman's head and shoulders in bronze. The floor is of maple, covered with an Axminster rug. One of the choice pieces of art in this room is a bronze clock of the Three Graces.
Opening from Mrs. Flagler's chamber is a bathroom 17 by 11 feet. The first thing in this room to catch the eye is a double toilet stand of onyx. The ceiling and walls are made to harmonize with the chamber. The floor is laid with marble tile. This room is a luxury in every respect, having a tub countersunk in the floor and a needle shower bath.
From the bathroom opens a clothes closet, with automatic lighting, so that when the doors open the electric lights are turned on. This clothes closet is fitted with armoires having glass doors to show the gowns; also compartments arranged with sliding trays for chapeaux, and chiffoniers for jewelry, laces and lingerie. There is also a dressing room for Mr. Flagler in this suite.
First of the guest chambers is a room 25 by 18 feet, decorated in the style of Louis XVI.
The ceiling and cornices are richly ornamented with panels over the doors. The walls are in two shades of blue, striped and panelled with chintz border. The furniture is of French gray and gold; headboard and footboard on the bed are of cane, gilded, and other pieces of furniture are made to correspond. The window draperies are of silk chintz, striped with blue, and the rug plain blue over maple floor.
Passing from this room, one goes through double doors into a pink room, with richly ornamented ceiling and cove; its walls are hung in two shades of pink, and window draperies are made of pink and cream silk. A pink Angora carpet covers the floor. The furniture is Louis XV in design, treated in French gray and white, tipped with dull gold.
The next room is 25 by 18 feet. The walls are in cream moire panels, with ornamental frieze. The tone is pistache green and gray, with plain green carpet. The furniture is carved, natural finished French, walnut.
A room in modern French is the next entered, the same in size as those just left. The woodwork and decorations in this are in shades of cream and white and the walls finished in a chintz stripe. The floor covering is a plain gold colored Angora carpet. The furniture is in two shades of gray, with cane backs and loose cushions of gold chintz striped silk, and window curtains of the same.
Another Louis XVI room comes next, in shades of heliotrope The walls are finished in delicate striped paper, with a frieze of wistaria blossoms. This floor, like all others in the house, is of hardwood, with ornamental border. The furniture covering in this room is in two shades of French gray, and window drapery of silk tapestry in cream combined with shades of heliotrope.
Next in order is the largest guest chamber in Whitehall, which is in Colonial design. Its dimensions are 30 x 18 feet, with an alcove. This room is rose Du Barry in coloring with cream white trimmings. There is an ornamental cornice and the walls are finished in two shades. A plain Angora carpet to match is laid over the maple floor. The curtains are of Brussels point lace and the windows are draped with, rose Du Barry silk. The furniture is of carved mahogany, treated in antique gold. The bed rests in an alcove, arranged with a canopy top and draped with white moire silk.
Leaving this, the visitor enters a room in the Adams Style of decoration, 30 by 17 feet. The walls represent a green lattice, on which pink roses appear to be growing. The floor has a plain green Angora rug, the window draperies are of green silk tapestry, with border appliqued. The furniture is of satinwood, upholstered in the same material as the window draperies.
The next room is in modern American style, noticeable by the twin beds which have been used so much during the last few years, and which are not found in any of the rooms previously described. This is very attractive, with coloring of walls, rug, draperies and furniture coverings in blue.
Following comes a handsome room in the art nouveau style. It is 25 by 15 feet. There is a decorative frieze, and the walls are panelled in ecru moire, with borders of red. The carpet is solid red, the draperies at the window are of two shades of red material, with chintz borders, and bedspread of the same. The furniture covering is of ecru taffeta in chintz.
This is adjoined by another room of the same school. The frieze of dancing girls in dull shades of blue and red gives color to this chamber, which is solid blue in tone. The walls are of blue flock paper, with unique white wood panels showing the blue through the openings, and a decorative feature introduced where the electric light brackets are inserted. The bedstead is of brass, in satin finish. "