Travelling to Florida began more than 5,000 years with the first Native American tribes, the Jaegas, who inhabited the area. Although control of the area changed over centuries from Spain to England and the Confederate States of America the area remained relatively undeveloped until the 20th century.
By the 1870s and 1880s, non-Native American settlers had inhabited many areas of Florida. In the vicinity of West Palm Beach and referred to the settlement as "Lake Worth Country". However, the population remained very small until the arrival of Henry Flagler, founder of Standard Oil from Ohio.
Henry visited Florida and realised its potential for tourism. For this he realised transport and hotels were important. He bought in a railroad, renamed the Florida East Coast Railway in 1895 which went on to reach Biscayne Bay by 1896.
In the Biscayne area Flagler dredged a channel, built streets, instituted the first water and power systems, and financed the town's first newspaper, the Metropolis. When the town was incorporated in 1896, its citizens wanted to honour the man responsible for its growth by naming it "Flagler." He declined the honour, persuading them instead to use an old Indian name for the river the settlement was built around, Miama or Miami.
A year later, Flagler opened the exclusive Hotel Royal Palm in Miami. Florida, this timeless corner of the tropics, allowed some of America’s most influential families to come and enjoy a relaxed life. They left behind a trail of beautiful homes and impressive history that few other communities can claim.
Using the best architects, design, materials and filling them with stunning furniture and art meant the state saw some of the finest homes and interiors in America. Palm Beach island in particular has spent a century glowing in the sun.
Flagler constructed for his wife and family his own Florida home- Whitehall. When it was completed in 1902, the New York Herald proclaimed that Whitehall, Henry Flagler's Gilded Age estate in Palm Beach, was "more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world." What was to become the Flagler's winter home had more than 100,000 square feet and 75-plus rooms.
Flagler originally intended for West Palm Beach to serve as a residential area for the workers at his hotels in Palm Beach. In 1893, George W. Potter surveyed and platted the original 48 blocks of the city. West Palm Beach would be incorporated as a town on November 5, 1894.before becoming a city in 1903.