Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Great Alligator Hunt

On Friday, we had to have the refrigerator in our 5th wheel replaced, which meant we were without a home while the work was being done.  That meant we had to find something else to do that our dog, Maggie, could do with us too.  If you've seen my earlier posts, you know I have seen all sorts of wildlife here in Florida - most of it in my own backyard, so to speak, at the RV park we're staying at in Juno Beach.  But the one thing we have not  seen is the famous Florida alligator.  So the hunt was on!
Hubby had it on good authority (someone he works with) that we could see alligators trapped in the lock at Lake Okeechobee, so that's where we headed.
We saw a flock of Black Vultures enjoying their breakfast alongside the road,
and a couple wild turkeys crossed the road in front of us - adding to my list of wildlife I've seen while in Florida!
I took another picture of the plantation house I wrote about in an earlier post - the one with big NO TRESPASSING signs out front.  They were all decked out for Memorial Day.  Hubby offered to stay in the truck while I rang the doorbell and asked for a tour since I want to see inside so bad.  Uh, no thank you.
We finally arrived at Lake Okeechobee to find that the lake level was so low that the locks weren't really needed.  They only had one lock gate closed, so -
no alligators!
But as we were examining the lock -
a catamaran arrived wanting to move from the lake into the waterway.
We got to see the gate open to allow the boat to pass through.
We said "hi" to the people on the boat as they went through the open gate.
They were quickly through and on their way, but no alligators!
As we headed back to the truck, Hubby thought he saw something in the water in a spillway area next to the lock.
We watched the water closely for a good half hour.
Then - up he (or she) came!
He was very unconcerned about our excited whispers.
We couldn't really see his full length, but Hubby estimated he was 4 - 6 feet long.
We finally got to see our alligator so now I can check something else off my list of things to see while we're in Florida.  I haven't seen a manatee yet!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Whitehall Mansion Part 4

This is the final installment of our tour of the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.  I loved every room and, more than once, I thought I'd have to find some smelling salts for Ceekay when we were there.
It must have been wonderful to have been a guest at this palatial home.
Can you imagine stepping out of your room into the hallway?  I can. 
But back to business!
This is the Master Suite.  I'm sorry the picture is a little dark.  We were allowed to take pictures if we didn't use flash.
Mr. and Mrs. Flagler actually shared the suite, a practice uncommon at the turn-of-the-century - at least if you had money.  But, by all accounts, their marriage was a real love match despite their age difference.
The bedroom is decorated in the Louis XV style and this is their original furniture.
The suite has two separate dressing chambers.
Remember those 17 bathrooms on the second floor?  This one, in the Master Suite, is the one they shared.
It had the most advanced conveniences of the day, including indoor plumbing, telephone, tub, and shower.
After touring inside, Ceekay and I headed to the Flagler Kenan Pavilion where we were to enjoy a Mother's Day Tea.
I'm pretty sure we were a little light-headed from everything we had seen inside!
But first we toured Flagler's private railcar, Railcar No. 91, built in 1886.  It is exhibited inside the Pavilion.  It is one of two private railcars Flagler used to survey his railroad empire.  He traveled by this car in 1912 to Key West to celebrate completion of the Over-Sea Railroad.
A newspaper article written at the time of its delivery called the railcar "A Palace on Wheels."
Our final stop of the day was the Cafe des Beaux-Arts, also inside the Pavilion, where we enjoyed a Mother's Day Tea complete with corsages, a souvenir picture and gift card to the museum gift shop.  We definitely used that!  I think Ceekay would agree with me that it was a wonderful day!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Whitehall Mansion Part 3

We're finally moving to the second floor of Henry and Mary Lily Flagler's winter retreat.  The reason I didn't show a butler's pantry or kitchen is because they no longer exist.  After the Flagler's deaths, Mary Lily's niece inherited the estate and sold it to investors who opened  it as the Whitehall Hotel in 1925.  They actually destroyed the entire west wing and added hotel rooms to the house.  They have since been torn down and the house returned to it's former glory.
This is Mary Lily's Morning Room.  She used this private sitting room to entertain bridge parties, practice music, and maintain her private correspondence.  I need one of these!
This is just one of the 13 separate servants' bedrooms that once existed.  Did I mention there were originally 17 bathrooms on the second floor?  They needed those servants!
The Flagler's servants lived on the second floor west wing and the servants that arrived with their many guests were housed in separate quarters on the third floor.
There were originally 14 guest chambers on the second floor.  This is the Yellow Roses Room.  Matching wallpaper and fabric was a turn-of-the-century innovation.
This is the Colonial Chamber, the largest of all the guest bedrooms.
The furniture came from Flagler's home, Satanstoe, in Mamaroneck, New York.
The Silver Maple Room.
The Blue Room.
The Pink Room.
Each bedroom is connected to the next by a double privacy door.
Did I mention each room had it's own bathroom and large walk-in closet?
They also had individually controlled thermostats.
The furniture in the Gold Room belonged to Henry Harkness Flagler, Flagler's son from his first marriage.
The Louis XV Room.
Ceekay and I were having a difficult time deciding which guestroom was our favorite.
The Heliotrope Room. 

That does not conclude the tour of the second floor.  I'll finish it up later this week with the Master Suite and Flagler's private rail car.  As an interesting side note:  Henry Flagler died as a result of a fall in one of the many Whitehall bathrooms.  He was 83 years old.  Mary Lily was 46.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Whitehall Mansion Part 2

This is Part 2 of our visit to what is now the Flagler Museum.  Henry Flagler was responsible for most of the development on the east coast of Florida, including the overseas railroad to Key West.  That cost him 7 years and $50,000,000 of his own money. 
But don't worry - he still had $100,000,000 (yes, that's million) to leave Mary Lily when he died at the mansion in 1913.
Whitehall is designed around a central courtyard which helps keep the house cool in the Florida climate.  The Flaglers occasionally used this space for dinner parties.
Above the fireplace in the Library is a portrait of Henry Flagler.  The Library was decorated in the Italian Renaissance style. 
 Flagler also used the room as a reception area for guests and business associates.
The cast plaster and fabric ceiling was made to look like wood beams and leather inserts.
Following dinner, gentlemen retired to the Billiard Room for conversation.  I'm sorry I didn't get a clearer picture.  Perhaps my hand was shaking with excitement over seeing such a house!
Even the South Hall is advanced for the period with it's indirect electric lighting used to light the coffered barrel ceiling.
And, of course, no home would be complete without a Music Room.
The Music Room also served as an art gallery.
Like all the chandeliers and sconces, original to Whitehall, the Music Room chandeliers incorporate Baccarat crystals.
Music was a popular form of entertainment during the Gilded Age.  In this room, Mary Lily also hosted ladies events and programs of lectures and musicales.
A resident organist was hired to play the 1,249-pipe organ.
We finish up our tour of the ground floor of Whitehall with the Grand Ballroom.  In 1903 a lavish party was given in honor of George Washington's birthday.  It was called the Bal Poudre.  The Florida Times-Union called it "the most brilliant social function in fair Florida's history" while the New York Herald described the event as "one of the most sumptuous social affairs ever attempted south of Washington."  Oh, to have been a guest that that party!!

That completes the tour of Whitehall's ground floor.  Whew!  On Monday, I'll move on to the second floor which contains the private living space for the Flaglers, their guest, and domestic staff.  I told you it was a big house!