Mar-a-Lago caused a stir in recent weeks, thanks to the now famous Florida FBI raid of former President Donald Trump. But long before government documents were available, this opulent mansion had a rich and tumultuous history. And it all started with a rich heir.
Mar-a-Lago’s Festive Years
Marjorie Merriweather Post was the heir to the Postum Grain Company – the company that eventually became the “Food Corporation”. Post took over the business at the age of 27 after her father passed away, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world at the time.
She aptly named this Palm Beach hotel. “Mar-a-Lago” means “Sea to Lake” in Spanish – and as the name suggests, it has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Lake Worth on the other.
Mar-a-Lago is just one of his properties. Another notable home of the Post is the Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC, now a museum.
Mar-a-Lago took four years to build and cost Post about $7 million (or more than $100 million today). Freelance journalist and Ph.D. student Michael Luongo reviewed the Post Family Article at the University of Michigan and covered Mar-a-Lago’s story for the Smithsonian Magazine.
“Even by Palm Beach standards, Mar-a-Lago is great,” he wrote.
The property is on about 20 acres and the house is huge. It is more than 37,000 square feet, with 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms. It is decorated with 36,000 historic Spanish tiles, imported Italian stone, thousands of feet of marble, gilded furniture, and gold leaf throughout the house.
Post is a dedicated hostess – her obituary in the New York Times said she built Mar-a-Lago because her first home in Florida was “too small for her parties.” it”.
“Florida in the 1920s and 1930s played the same role as it does today: it’s where people go on vacation,” Luongo told NPR. “But we’re not talking about your average middle-class family going to Disney. We’re talking about very elite people going to Palm Beach, people going to the parties they’re going to host.”
Post has hosted royals and diplomats, elaborate parties, and charity events including the International Red Cross Festival. And a lot of that was opened to the Palm Beach community around Mar-a-Lago.
“She is also very interested in inviting disadvantaged people to events that they can attend, such as concerts,” says Luongo. “[Post] is a well-off woman, very wealthy, very enthusiastic, very conscious of the importance of her role in society.”
According to Luongo, she hired the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1929 to perform for underprivileged children as part of a charity fundraiser. It’s important to her that these events bring money to the charities she supports.
She went to great lengths to ensure cost savings for a small organization,” says Luongo. “She made sure that if she opened the door, it would serve a social purpose in a social sense, but also serve a social purpose by uplifting society for people from less needy backgrounds or for charity.”
Mar-a-Lago was declared a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1969, and it was subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When Post died in 1973, she left the Mar-a-Lago estate to the federal government to use as a retreat for presidents and diplomats – she wanted it to become the “Winter White House.”.
In the end, that didn’t happen because the government deemed it too expensive to maintain. Homes like these are known as “white elephants” – a large and expensive asset that becomes a burden.
“There are other examples of houses like this that don’t exist anymore. In [the 1950s and 1960s], when tastes changed, families sold homes, and people could no longer afford to buy them. more,” said Luongo. “That’s why so many years have been torn down.”
A hit for a real estate mogul
When the Marjorie Merriweather Post Foundation put it up for sale and after several failed attempts, that’s when real estate mogul Donald J. Trump stepped in.
In December 1985, Trump purchased the fund’s assets for $5 million. He also paid millions of dollars more to buy antiques in Mar-a-Lago.
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