Gilded Age Attractions in The Palm Beaches

March 25, 2022

Experience the true Gilded Age in America’s First Resort Destination.

​If you are into TV shows, you’ve surely heard of the new series “The Gilded Age” available on HBO since the end of January. Created by Downton Abbey’s director Julian Fellowes, the show paints a dramatic, extravagant portrait of New York’s high society in the 1880s. Curiously, The Palm Beaches have their own Gilded Age history that started with railroad tycoon Henry Morrison Flagler—a figure of paramount importance whose projects marked the beginning of Palm Beach society and its fabulous wealth. Do you want to learn more? Here are the top Gilded Age attractions in The Palm Beaches.
 

1. Henry M. Flagler Museum – Palm Beach 

On the west side of Palm Beach Island you’ll find the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, which offers tours of Henry M. Flagler’s Gilded Age-era estate, Whitehall. Completed in 1902 and used by Flagler and his wife as a winter retreat until 1913, the 100,000-square-foot mansion is today a National Historic Landmark. The museum has restored Whitehall in all its gilded glamour, and highlights Flagler’s accomplishments in shaping Florida’s history and America’s Gilded Age. Changing exhibitions and special programs are offered throughout the Palm Beach season, and visitors can climb aboard Flagler’s private Railcar No. 91 which dates to 1896. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm. Buy your tickets here.

Whitehall
C​ourtesy of the Henry M. Flagler Museum

 

2. The Breakers Palm Beach – Palm Beach

An iconic destination for more than 125 years, The Breakers is a luxury, oceanfront resort located on Palm Beach’s Atlantic coast. Founded by Henry M. Flagler in 1896, this 140-acre property delights guests with gracious service, unparalleled seaside glamour and world-class amenities. 
The resort’s legacy began with the development of the Royal Poinciana Hotel (1894), a Georgian beauty built on the shores of Lake Worth. Opening to universal acclaim, Flagler quickly decided to expand his estate, constructing a second hotel on the beachfront portion of the property, down by “the breakers,” or where the waves crash. 
Throughout the years, The Breakers has been rebuilt twice due to fires in 1903 and 1925. The second reconstruction was awarded to New York City-based designers Schultze and Weaver, who used European influences and inspiration from the Villa Medici in Rome. Upon reopening, the resort’s reputation continued to grow, and as word spread, it attracted socially-prominent families from America’s early 20th-century to Palm Beach: the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors and more. Book a suite, or stop by The Breakers on Sunday morning for a spectacular brunch experience

The Breakers Palm Beach hotel
Courtesy of The Breakers Palm Beach

 

3. Afternoon Tea Service In a 19th Century Ambiance – Palm Beach

Get transported back to the 19th century at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, a unique hotel where Palm Beach architecture merges with English values of discretion and attentive service. The hotel offers a British afternoon tea from 12 pm to 4 pm. Sit back and enjoy a selection of scones, cakes, and sandwiches with smoked salmon, chicken, eggs, and more. Besides a wide selection of loose-leaf teas and infusions, you can also order Champagne, fresh juices, and hot chocolate. You may choose to take your tea in the Chesterfield’s wood-paneled library, in the Leopard Lounge Bar or in the Courtyard. Alternatively, enjoy your Gilded-Age afternoon tea at the Cafe des Beaux-Arts at the Flagler Museum. The café is located inside the Museum’s Flagler Kenan Pavilion, a modern building adjacent to Whitehall which resembles a 19th century Beaux-Arts railway palace. The Gilded-Age-inspired tea service features a prix-fixe menu that includes a selection of savory sandwiches, traditional scones, sweets, and the Museum’s own organic Palm Beach Blend tea and pink lemonade. Each table is set for service on the museum’s exquisite Whitehall Collection™ china. The prix-fixe menu also includes museum admission. Buy your tea service ticket here

Tea service at The Chesterfield Palm Beach
Tea Service at The Chesterfield Palm Beach

 

4. The Ben Hotel – West Palm Beach

Located in Downtown West Palm Beach, The Ben is a boutique hotel inspired by the Ben Trovato estate, a 1892 Victorian home owned by the couple Byrd Dewey and Fred Dewey. Byrd Dewey was a published and celebrated author, including the national bestseller Bruno. The large estate entertained luminaries like Henry Phipps Jr., Woodrow Wilson, and the Vanderbilts. Today, The Ben repurposes the hospitality of that time, channeling Byrd’s love of entertaining, her interests, and personal passions, including the natural world. It is now a place for socialization, enjoyment, and enrichment in an environment that recalls Byrd’s personality through small details in any angle. To honor The Ben's rich 19th century history, the hotel launched a unique service: the Book Butler Program. Simply dial 0 from your room phone and a butler will deliver a selection of best-selling books to your room. And for a breathtalking view, take the express elevator on the right side of The Ben’s main entrance and get access to Spruzzo, The Ben’s rooftop bar & restaurant. Enjoy a handcrafted cocktail and classic Mediterranean dishes with prime views of the Palm Harbor Marina and Intracoastal Waterway.

The Ben lobby
The Ben West Palm Beach

 

5. Antique Row – West Palm Beach

Immerse yourself in antiques! Just a few miles away from The Ben, you’ll find Antique Row, a charming district boasting over 40 antique stores, specialty shops, and art galleries—all within walking distance. Get lost in the impressive selection of 17th to 20th century antiques, fine and decorative arts, period deco, vintage, and modern furnishings, and much more. You never know what you’ll find… Maybe a treasure from the Gilded Age!

Antique Row
Antique Row

If you want to discover more about the history of The Palm Beaches, stop by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach. As a leading source for Palm Beach County and Florida’s history, the Historical Society of Palm Beach County houses a permanent collection of objects, images, maps, newspapers, journals, architectural drawings, and research files that span over 12,000 years of history.

Header image: courtesy of The Breakers Palm Beach

 
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