If Donald Trump were to actually win the presidency, one of his homes almost certainly would be in the spotlight: Mar-a-Lago. Already, when Trump won a victory in 3 states’s primaries Tuesday, he delivered his speech from Mar-a-Lago. Like George Bush’s Kennebunkport compound and George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas retreat, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is a luxurious escape for his family.
But unlike George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush’s homes, Mar-a-Lago is also a business: a private club and spa that reportedly made him $15.6 million last year. Trump keeps a section of Mar-a-Lago private, for the use of his family.
And, in contrast to George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush’s homes, the Palm Beach, Florida property is opulent in the extreme—it’s been compared to the Palace of Versailles by the New York Times. It’s also become a source of annoyance for the people who live in the surrounding community. “It’s all about the Trumpster,” Laurel Baker, executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, told The Tampa Bay Times. “I would venture to think that old Palm Beach doesn’t . . . consider him one of their own.”
Here’s what we know about Mar-a-Lago.
The comparison is apt. Sumptuous appointments framed by rivers of marble, carved stone, and gold leaf, 126 rooms on 17 acres bound by the Atlantic and Intracoastal waterway, liberally graced with glittering chandeliers, oriental rugs, and 16th century Flemish tapestries — this is a lifestyle that makes a statement.
Trump purchased it for less than $10 million in 1985. Now it’s worth is estimated at between $200 million and $300 million.
Marjorie Merriweather Post, a socialite and heiress to the founder of what would become General Foods and a savvy businesswoman in her own right, started to build the estate in 1923, according to the National Park Service. It opened in 1927 and would ultimately become a National Historic Landmark.
American architect Marion Sims Wyeth, who also created other mansions in Palm Beach as well as the Florida Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, handled the design of the estate. Viennese designer and illustrator Joseph Urban was responsible for the interior design. In Europe he was responsible for the interior design of a number of royal palaces. Urban brought over a father and son team of sculptors who created the parrot, monkey, ram, eagle, and griffin figures on the exterior walls.
Black and white marble floor blocks, 2,200 in all, and 20,000 roofing tiles came from a Cuban castle. Post imported a collection almost 36,000 Spanish tiles, some dating to the 15th century. The living room ceiling is a copy of a ceiling in the Academia of Venice and is covered in gold leaf.
When Post died in 1973, she left the house to the federal government as a summer presidential getaway. Only the upkeep was too much and the government eventually gave it back to Post’s daughters.
They didn’t want it either. In 1985, the daughters sold the estate to Trump, reportedly for less than $10 million, including the furnishings.
According to an old Vanity Fair report, moving to Palm Beach in the mid-1980s was the idea of Trump’s former wife, Ivana. After the couple divorced, Mar-a-Lago stayed with Trump.
And the property has been a point of contention between Trump and the surrounding old-money community for decades. When he turned the mansion into the Mar-a-Lago Club and spa on parts of the estate (part is closed off as private space for him and his family), the town council tried to limit membership, party attendance, and photography, according to the Washington Post.
Trump went on the offensive with a PR campaign, reportedly claiming that the existing private clubs excluded Jews and blacks and yet didn’t face the same restrictions. Eventually Trump won and the town lifted most of the restrictions. The club has an initiation fee of $100,000 and annual dues of $14,000, according to the Post.
Trump added a Louis XIV-style ballroom with $7 million in gold leaf on the walls and 40-foot ceilings, as well as a spa, tennis courts, and croquet courts. But when he erected an 80-foot flagpole on the front lawn with a 15-by-25-foot American flag, both over local zoning restrictions, the town began to fine him $250 a day. By the time the amount reached $120,000, Trump sued for $25 million, claiming an abridgment of his First Amendment rights to free expression. The two sides agreed to compromise, with Trump agreeing to a pole that was only 70-feet high and a donation of $100,000 to veterans’ charities. But Trump still got the tallest flagpole in town.
Now Trump is looking for another legal victory. He’s been filing lawsuits since 1995 over airport noise in an attempt to keep planes from flying over the property, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The actions have reportedly already cost local taxpayers $600,000 in legal fees. His latest suit seeks $100 million in damages.