The Flagler Kenan Pavilion Recalls The Great Train Stations Of Yesteryear

TEXT Karen B. King McCallum
PHOTOGRAHY Courtesy of Flagler Museum, © Flagler Museum and © Flagler Museum Archives, Palm Beach, FL

FLAGLER D15-2A Henry and Mary Lily Flagler and their guests traveled in luxurious style in their personal railcar, No. 91
FLAGLER D15-2B Architect Jeffery W. Smith conceived the Flagler Kenan Pavilion, which captures the opulence of the Gilded Age.
FLAGLER D15-2C Railcar 91 has been faithfully restored to its original condition using documentation from several museums and the Delaware State Archives. The study is shown here.
FLAGLER D15-2D Arched windows line the pavilion, whose design complements the Beaux-Arts architecture of Whitehall, located adjacent to the structure.
Oil baron Henry Morrison Flagler changed the landscape of Florida when he built the Florida East Coast Railway in the late 1800s. Linking Jacksonville to Key West, the FEC Railway put agriculture and tourism on track to become Florida’s leading industries.

Flagler often surveyed the progress of the railway from his “palace on wheels” — Railcar No. 91. In 1912, he rode in this railcar for the inaugural journey to Key West via the Over-Sea Railroad, which connected mainland Florida to Key West.
During this period, he also commissioned the architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings to design an estate in the Beaux-Arts style for his wife Mary Lily in Palm Beach. Reflecting the lavish and heavily ornamented classical style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in 19th-century Paris, the Beaux-Arts style caught America’s attention during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The country’s industrial tycoons further popularized this style in their Gilded Age mansions.

Flagler’s estate, Whitehall, was completed in 1902 and hailed by the New York Herald as “…more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.” Today, Whitehall and Railcar 91 are part of the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.

Just recently, the fully restored railcar moved into a grand home of its own adjacent to the museum — the Flagler Kenan Pavilion. Funded by the Kenan Family Trust, the 8,100-square-foot pavilion is named after the mogul and William R. Kenan Jr., Flagler’s engineer, friend and brother-in-law.

Designed in the Beaux-Arts manner by Jeffery W. Smith of Palm Beach-based Smith Architectural Group, Inc., the pavilion is the first addition to Whitehall since 1925, and took almost four years to build. Comprising concrete, glass and steel, the pavilion recalls the great train stations of the 19th century. The new structure showcases the railcar while providing additional space for museum events. It also houses the seasonal Pavilion Café.

Visitors can view the railcar’s salon, master bedroom and bath, study, guest quarters, and kitchen, as well as Whitehall. For more information on tours and exhibits, please call 561/655-2833, or go to the museum’s website at www.flaglermuseum.us.