Palm Beach County has a long, rich history. Here are a few of the most interesting local museums to see and experience some of that history first-hand.
The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, also known as Whitehall, is a Palm Beach landmark that was originally built as a wedding present and winter retreat for Henry Morrison Flagler and his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. The 75-room Gilded Age mansion, also known as Whitehall, was built in 1902. The building façade is breathtaking even today, with massive marble columns and a red barrel-tiled roof.
Today, Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as the Flagler Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits and special programs. During your tour, learn about Palm Beach’s beginnings, including the wreck of the Spanish brig Providencia in 1878. The ship was carrying 20,000 coconuts when it ran aground, and the lost cargo soon filled the island with its first generation of palm trees. Henry Flagler named the island “Palm Beach” two decades later.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum
A few minutes’ drive north from Palm Beach is Jupiter, home of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. The construction of the lighthouse dates back to 1853, when a young Army lieutenant named George Gordon Meade selected the site and created the original design. Meade went on to defeat Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the Battle of Gettysburg, a campaign that changed the course of the war and American history.
The museum contains interactive exhibits of the area’s Native Americans, early pioneers, lighthouse keepers and much more. And yes, you can climb up the 105 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a breathtaking view of the Inlet!
Johnson History Museum
Near downtown West, Palm Beach is the beautifully restored 1916 County Courthouse building. This is the home of the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum, packed with displays and rare photos from The Palm Beaches’ earliest days.
One gallery focuses on the area’s natural environment, and the other looks at the pioneers who made The Palm Beaches what it is today, including railroading entrepreneur Henry Flagler, architect Addison Mizner and sports figures like Jack Nicklaus and Chris Evert. Video presentations, as well as special exhibits, make a visit here a fun afternoon for the entire family.