Whitehall: Where Muses of Literature and the Arts Reside
Larger than life: Art that inspires us through the ages
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By James Howard Smith
In 1883, Henry Morrison Flagler was charmed with his visit to Florida, and he imagined others would also find delight there. With that thought, five years later, he began construction of the first of many hotels in the state. To provide a path for others to enjoy the gifts of Florida, Flagler also established the Florida East Coast Railway leading deep into the state. After a significant over-sea engineering feat, eventually the railway reached all the way to Key West.
Due to his dedicated efforts, Flagler had a significant and lasting effect on establishing Florida as a holiday destination. Twenty years after that fortuitous first visit, he built his winter residence, Whitehall. His new home almost came as a reward, a place to enjoy the Florida he had helped create.
Whitehall was designed during the Gilded Age, a time of expansive technological development and cultural enrichment across America. It was influenced by the origins of Western civilization, that of Classical Greece and the Roman Empire. Whitehall was designed in Beaux-Arts style, which draws upon these periods. The partnership of architects John Carrère and Thomas Hastings helped to advance the cultural heritage of the time. Whitehall was completed in 1902, the same year their design of the New York Public Library began construction.
Upon arriving in Whitehall, guests gaze in awe as they enter the Grand Hall. Looking upward into the lofty painted clouds, the Oracle of Delphi appears surrounded by the Muses of literature and the arts. The Muses aim to share the wisdom of Apollo, the Sun God, and by doing so, inspire and illuminate humanity. This grand arrival sets the tone for the rooms of Whitehall and their various uses and decorative details.
Knowledge of Western history, literature, and art—playing the role of imparting wisdom and broadening minds—was thought to be essential by those entrepreneurs who considered themselves leaders. They felt a responsibility to translate this gained wisdom into action, and thus Flagler and his contemporaries bore great influence on the men, women, and families of America.
Whitehall, then, provided an apt environment for this philosophy, with the Muses for inspiration, and rooms such as the Library, the Drawing Room, and the Dining Room offering spaces to learn, share insights, and strategize various projects.
To find out more about Whitehall, which is now the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, visit FlaglerMuseum.us.
James Howard Smith, an architectural photographer, designer, and founder of Cartio, aims to inspire an appreciation of classic architecture.
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