About Henry Flagler
The inspiration for the District, industrialist Henry Flagler was a man of extraordinary vision and entrepreneurial spirit, and is credited with first envisioning the area known today as West Palm Beach.
Following an amazing career as a founding partner of Standard Oil, Henry Flagler invested himself in the development of Florida. The transportation infrastructure and the tourism and agricultural industries he established remain today as the foundation of Florida’s economy. Mr. Flagler first extended his business interests to Jacksonville, Florida, building the 540-room Hotel Ponce deLeon. Realizing the importance of a transportation system to support further hotel ventures, Flagler purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax Railroad, which eventually became the famed Florida East Coast Railway system.
In 1893, Flagler bought land on a little-known barrier island called Palm Beach, where he built the Royal Poinciana, the largest resort hotel in the world. It and a smaller hotel nearby called The Breakers, became gathering places for wealth and fashion during “the season,” from December to April. After Flagler built a railroad bridge onto the island, the wealthy from America’s northern cities traveled down in private railcars for parties, golf, tennis, boating, bathing and fishing.
To accommodate the workers who built and served the hotels, Flagler first established a community on the island, but eventually laid out a city across the lake and built homes, churches and government buildings – creating the city of West Palm Beach.
Today West Palm Beach still reflects its historic resort roots combined with a steady work ethic, and has become the area’s central business District. Mr. Flagler still serves as a reminder that those seeking to extend their fortune while enjoying an idyllic lifestyle can still do so in the city he envisioned and brought to life, West Palm Beach.