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Flagler Museum, Part 3

And what would any self-respecting mansion be without an atrium in the middle? I suspect that prior to air-conditioning, any large building in South Florida would need some way to keep it reasonably cool inside. An atrium allows the flow of cooler air into the mansion and thus accomplishes that purpose. Did I mention that this mansion is huge — in fact, one could remove all the vegetation from the atrium and create a tennis court. Personally, I am glad they did not — the gardens and fountain provide a peaceful oasis for relaxation and contemplation.

When the Flaglers lived here, I am certain that this must have been a favorite gathering place. Primarily they were in residence during the winter months and this would have been a comfortable daytime spot. Even though South Florida does not experience the severe winter weather that strikes the northern states, it does often get quite cool. A little sunshine in the atrium coupled with closed windows to block the winds would have warmed this spot nicely.

Even if the residents and guests did not wish to stroll far from their bedrooms, they could still walk out to the small balconies and enjoy the view.

The centerpiece of the atrium is this elaborate fountain.

And the focus of the fountain is this Romanesque maiden. Did I say "maiden"? Look at those biceps — she has been pumping iron.

She is being leered at by four Satyrs. Can't you just image Henry Flagler inviting his male guests to the atrium after dinner for brandy and cigars? And further don't you think that there would have been some bawdy jokes about these figures — conversation that would have been too delicate for the ladies?

In the basin of the fountain are four figures that look like the image of a very young Medusa — the female greek monster who had snakes for hair. Here she looks a bit tamer and is spewing water from her mouth into the basin. It is hard to look fearsome under such circumstance.

Since most of Flagler's guests were probably from the industrial states of the time, they would have been fascinated by the tropical foliage — here a large tropical fern.

Unusual flowers on a yucca plant might have looked as if it were from another planet.

I believe this is a form of Heliconia — and would have looked equally otherworldly.

I did find a full-time inhabitant of the atrium, a dragonfly. He seemed to be enjoying life — albeit a short one.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com