First lady Melania Trump and Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, tour the Flagler Museum with museum director Erin Manning on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Skyler Swisher/Sun Sentinel)
First lady Melania Trump soaked in the splendor of another lavish Palm Beach mansion Wednesday.
The first lady and and her Japanese counterpart toured the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, a Palm Beach landmark about three miles from President Donald Trump’s own Mar-a-Lago estate and private club.
The 75-room, 100,000-square-foot mansion — named Whitehall — matches all of the luxuriousness of Mar-a-Lago. Whitehall’s grand entryway features seven types of marble and a 20-foot high ceiling.
When Whitehall opened in 1902, a New York City reporter wrote the Gilded Age mansion was “more wonderful than any palace in Europe.”
The first lady tweeted photos of her visit with Akie Abe, wife of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Japanese delegation is visiting Palm Beach for a two-day summit with the president.
“I enjoyed showing Mrs. Abe a timeless part of Florida’s history,” the first lady said. “Thank you to the welcoming staff of the Flagler Museum for having us, and for continuing to share Whitehall’s historic influence.”
The industrialist Henry Flagler, who played an integral role in developing Florida’s tourism industry with the Overseas Railroad, built the mansion as a wedding present for his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler. The couple wintered there from 1902 until Flagler’s death in 1913.
It cost about $4 million to build and furnish the mansion, which would equate to more than $100 million in today’s dollars.
President Donald Trump is hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie for the second time in Palm Beach. Trump has owned the Mar-a-Lago estate and private club since the 1980s. During his presidency, he has spent many weekends in South Florida during the social season, which typically ends around Easter. He also hosted the president of China in 2017.
The museum’s director Erin Manning and William Matthews, Flagler’s great-grandson, greeted Trump and Abe, and Manning led a 40-minute tour of the museum.
They saw Flagler’s private railcar that he used to travel his east coast railway that ran from Jacksonville to Key West. They learned about bicyle-powered wicker wheelchairs wealthy vacationers used to traverse Palm Beach during the early 1900s.
An organist then serenaded Trump and Abe in the mansion’s music room with a performance of “Anvil Chorus” from the opera Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi, one of Flagler’s favorite pieces. The 1,249-pipe Odell organ was one of the largest ever installed in a private home of its day.
President Donald Trump and the prime minister played golf at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach during the museum tour. The Trumps and Abes had dinner Tuesday night at Mar-a-Lago. The prime minister was in South Florida for two days of talks on North Korea and trade sanctions.
In February 2017, Melania Trump and Akie Abe toured another Palm Beach County site — the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
About 100,000 people visit the Flagler Museum annually. The first lady and Abe’s visits help to shine a positive spotlight on Palm Beach County attractions, said Ashley Svarney, a spokeswoman for the area’s tourism marketing organization Discover the Palm Beaches.
“It gave tremendous visibility to this gem that we have here in the Palm Beaches that is available for any and all to come visit and explore," Svarney said.
The Morikami Gardens saw a spike in Internet searches after Abe and Trump’s visit last year, she said.
The first lady is expected to attend former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral on Saturday, along with the Obamas and Clintons. The White House has not released whether the president plans to attend.
email@example.com, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher