Best Local Landmark (2001)
Put simply, South Florida as we know it today probably wouldn't even exist if it weren't for a retired millionaire named Henry Flagler and his vision of linking the state's entire east coast, from Jacksonville to Key West, by rail. And his Palm Beach estate, Whitehall, now known as the Flagler Museum, is the ultimate monument to the man who paved the way for a Florida economy dominated by agriculture and tourism. When he embarked on the project that would make him the father of Florida development, Flagler had already amassed a fortune through his Standard Oil partnership with, among others, John D. Rockefeller. As if a second career as a railroad magnate weren't enough, Flagler also constructed a series of spectacular buildings as he made his way down the peninsula: St. Augustine's Hotel Ponce de Leon, Palm Beach's Royal Poinciana and the Breakers hotels, and of course Whitehall. The 60,000-square-foot, 55-room "Taj Mahal of North America" became the winter home of Flagler and his wife, Mary Lily Kenan, and today it's preserved in all the glory that led the New York Herald in 1902 to characterize it as "more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world...." Wander among the trappings of Flagler's lavish lifestyle (including his own personal railcar), and praise him -- or curse him -- for making South Florida possible.