Mar-a-Lago National Historic Landmark
Mar-a-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on Palm Beach Island
|Location||1100 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, Florida, United States|
|Area||110,000 sq ft (10,000 m2)|
|NRHP reference #||80000961|
|Added to NRHP||December 23, 1980|
|Designated NHL||December 23, 1980|
Mar-a-Lago (//) is a resort and national historic landmark in Palm Beach, Florida, built from 1924 to 1927 by cereal-company heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. The 126-room, 62,500-square-foot (5,810 m2) mansion contains the Mar-a-Lago Club, a members-only club with guest rooms, a spa, and other hotel-style amenities. It is located in Palm Beach County on the Palm Beach barrier island, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Florida's Intracoastal Waterway to the west.
At the time of her death in 1973, Post bequeathed the property to the National Park Service, hoping it could be used for state visits or as a Winter White House, but because the costs of maintaining the property exceeded the funds provided by Post, and it was difficult to secure the facility (as it is located in the flight path of Palm Beach Airport), the property was returned to the Post Foundation by an Act of Congress in 1981.
In 1985, Mar-a-Lago was purchased by Donald Trump. His wife at the time, Ivana Trump, was charged with running the property. Trump retained Mar-a-Lago through both of his divorces. His family maintains private quarters in a separate, closed-off area of the house and grounds. Trump has frequently visited there as president of the United States, referring to it as the Winter White House and his "Southern White House". Mar-a-Lago has been used to host meetings for President Trump and international leaders, including Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe and Chinese president Xi Jinping. It is the second largest mansion in the state of Florida and the 22nd largest mansion in the United States.
The company identifies the name Mar-a-Lago as Spanish for "Sea-to-Lake," referring to the fact that the resort extends the entire width of Palm Beach, from the Atlantic Ocean to what is now the Intracoastal Waterway, but previously was known as Lake Worth.
Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post Cereals business, paid for the house to be built with her husband Edward F. Hutton. She hired Marion Sims Wyeth to design it, and Joseph Urban to create interior design and exterior decorations. Post spent $7 million ($90 million today) and it was finished in 1927. The house has 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, a 29-foot-long (8.8 m) pietra dura marble top dining table, 12 fireplaces, and three bomb shelters. Mar-a-Lago was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980. On April 18, 2012, the American Institute of Architects' Florida Chapter ranked Mar-a-Lago fifth on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.
Post, who died in 1973, willed the 17-acre (6.9 ha) estate to the United States government as a Winter White House for presidents and visiting foreign dignitaries. Richard Nixon preferred the Florida White House in Key Biscayne, however, and Jimmy Carter was not interested. The federal government soon realized the immense cost of maintenance, and the difficulty maintaining security for diplomats, and returned it to the Post Foundation in 1981. It was then listed for sale for $20 million. Dina Merrill and Post's two other daughters did not maintain the property in the meanwhile, expecting to sell it. But there was so little interest, the city approved its demolition to build smaller homes.
Donald Trump learned about the estate after unsuccessfully trying to purchase and combine two apartments in Palm Beach for his family. According to Trump, he offered the Post family $15 million for it, but they rejected it. Trump purchased the land between Mar-a-Lago and the ocean from Jack C. Massey, the former owner of KFC, for $2 million, stating he intended to build a home that would block Mar-a-Lago's beach view. The threat caused interest in the property to decline, and Trump ended up getting the property for $7 million in 1985. Trump then renovated the estate, adding a 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) ballroom. The club also has five clay tennis courts and a waterfront pool.
In the early 1990s, Trump faced financial difficulties. While negotiating with his bankers, he promised to divide Mar-a-Lago into smaller properties, alarming Palm Beach residents; so the city council rejected his plan to do so. Trump instead turned the estate into a private club that—unlike other Palm Beach old money resorts like the Bath and Tennis Club and Everglades Club—accepted Jewish people and African-Americans as members.
The new club hosted concerts by Céline Dion and Billy Joel, had beauty-pageant contestants as guests, and Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley spent their honeymoon at Mar-a-Lago. Mar-a-Lago has frequently hosted the International Red Cross Ball, an annual "white tie, tails, and tiara" ball. Founded by Post, it has a history of attracting wealthy socialites and ambassadors from across the world in support of the mission of the American Red Cross.
President Trump has referred to Mar-a-Lago as his "Winter White House", and on occasion his "Southern White House", fulfilling Post's original purpose for the property. It has a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) for communications with the White House Situation Room and Pentagon. The Mar-A-Lago Crowd, an informal council organized by President Trump which oversees many of the activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, is named after and frequently meets at the club.
Trump's first visit to Mar-a-Lago as president of the United States took place on the weekend of February 3–6, 2017. On Saturday, he hosted the Diamond Red Cross Ball at Mar-a-Lago Club, while on Sunday, he watched Super Bowl LI at Trump International Golf Club (West Palm Beach). The estimated cost (over US$3 million) of the weekend garnered some scrutiny as Trump, before being elected, had regularly criticized President Barack Obama for taking allegedly expensive taxpayer-funded vacations.
On the weekend of February 10–12, 2017, President Trump and his wife Melania hosted Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe and his wife. This was the first use of Mar-a-Lago to entertain an international leader, a task that has traditionally been held in the White House. President Trump was also on vacation for the occasion of one of his first international security crises, that of a North Korean missile launch. Trump and Abe conferred in full view of the other diners.
During the third consecutive weekend visit to Mar-a-Lago on February 17–20, Trump conducted a campaign rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport. He also conducted interviews for a replacement National Security Advisor and named General H. R. McMaster as Flynn's successor on February 20, 2017.
After President Trump's fourth weekend visit on March 3–5, questions were raised about the access his paying club members have to him and his entourage. A number of Democratic senators asked the President to release visitor logs of Mar-a-Lago and as well as a list of the members of the private club. Subsequently, the "Mar-a-Lago Act" was introduced, legislation requiring publication of logs of visitors at the White House and other places where the president conducts business. A lawsuit filed by a National Security Archive analyst, Kate Doyle, in conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and CREW requested the visitor logs from Mar-a-Lago be released to the public. In July 2017, a judge ordered that these logs be released in September.
Trump's fifth presidential visit took place on March 17–18. Guests included Melania's parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs.
During his next visit April 6–9, President Trump hosted the Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the first two days. At Mar-a-Lago the decision to strike a Syrian airfield was made. The following Easter weekend was also spent with family members at Mar-a-Lago.
On April 4, 2017, prior to President Xi's visit, ShareAmerica, a website run by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, published a blog post describing Mar-a-Lago's history. On April 5, 2017, the U.S. embassy in the United Kingdom's website shared snippets of the original blog post on its own blog, and the U.S. embassy in Albania's Facebook page shared the original post. On April 24, 2017, Democrats Senator Ron Wyden, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and ethics observers like former ambassador Norman Eisen, questioned the use of official government resources promoting a private property owned by Trump. By April 25, 2017, ShareAmerica and both U.S. embassies in the United Kingdom and Albania removed their respective posts. ShareAmerica, replaced their post with the following statement, "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post."
With the seasonal closing of Mar-a-Lago by May 14 ahead of the Atlantic hurricane season, President Trump uses Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, as his preferred retreat location during the Summer months (calling it his "Summer White House").
In November 2017 Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago for his first presidential Thanksgiving celebration, and one month later he returned for his tenth presidential visit during his Christmas vacation.
During 2018 the President visited Mar-a-Lago eight times prior to the seasonal closing in May. During this time he had a summit meeting with the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 17–18. In the second part of the year he celebrated Thanksgiving but not Christmas at the estate.
When the president is in residence the Palm Beach region becomes a zone of temporary flight restrictions affecting flights and air operations severely within a 30 nautical mile (55.56 km) radius. Coast Guard and Secret Service secure the two waterway approaches, ocean and lake, and Secret Service cordons off streets to Mar-a-Lago during the president's visits. Coast Guard also attaches an elite Maritime Safety and Security Team to specialize with maritime security. By the third weekend in February 2017, nearby Palm Beach County Park Airport (Lantana Airport) had been shut down for three consecutive weekends, accumulating significant financial losses for multiple businesses.
The primary business occupying the estate is the Mar-a-Lago Club, which operates as resort and hotel for dues-paying members, and rents out estate venues for private events. Membership at the Mar-a-Lago Club required a $200,000 initiation fee up until 2012 when it was lowered to $100,000. Sources close to the resort indicated the cut was in response to reduced demand following the Bernie Madoff scandal which affected many affluent Palm Beach residents. The fee was returned to $200,000 in January 2017 following the election of Donald Trump as president with $14,000 annual dues. Overnight guests pay up to $2,000 a night. According to financial disclosure forms filed by Donald Trump, the Mar-a-Lago Club realized $29.7 million in gross revenues in the period June 2015 to May 2016.
The club has nearly 500 paying members (with a cap of 500) and admits twenty to forty new members a year. Members include oil executive Bill Koch, financier Thomas Peterffy, New Jersey Democratic Party leader George Norcross, lobbyist Kenneth Duberstein, real estate developers Bruce E. Toll and Richard LeFrak, media executive Christopher Ruddy, talk show host Howie Carr, talk show host Michael Savage's wife, and NFL coach Bill Belichick.
The club holds an annual New Year's Eve party, described in the Daily Mail by journalist and author Ronald Kessler, who has known Donald Trump for two decades: "The New Year's Eve party was held in that ballroom [described in Kessler's book The Season: Inside Palm Beach and America's Richest Society], with almost 700 guests who paid $1,000 per couple. First came hors d'oeuvres and champagne on the terrace overlooking the pool, always heated to 78 degrees, like the second pool right on the ocean. Cocktail shrimp, stone crab claws, cold lobster, oysters on the half shell, sushi, and caviar dished onto blini were among the offerings. After that, the guests swanned over to the ballroom for dinner and dancing. Dinner included truffle and ricotta ravioli and filet mignon and scallops. The bubbly: from Trump's own Charlottesville, Virginia vineyard." A second article by Kessler in Daily Mail in February 2016 predicted that Trump would operate as president the way he runs Mar-a-Lago.
In "A Roadmap to Trump’s Washington", Kessler described the carrot-and-stick approach Trump used to get his Mar-a-Lago estate approved as a club by Palm Beach Town Council members and predicted he would operate in the same manner as president to win over support for his agenda. In "The Anatomy of a Trump Decision", Kessler depicted how Trump makes decisions by focusing on his decision to turn his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach into a private club.
As of February 2017, President Trump is considering at least three club members for ambassadorships.
In protest against Trump's remarks on the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, six nonprofit organizations canceled scheduled gala events at the club. The charities canceling included the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society.
The club has been frequently cited for health code violations. In January 2017, Florida inspectors noted 15 infractions that included unsafe seafood, insufficiently refrigerated meats, rusty shelving, and cooks without hairnets. Since 2013, it has faced 51 health code violations.
On March 30, 2019 Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national, was arrested and charged with unlawful entry to the premises and making false statements to federal law enforcement officials.
On October 3, 2006, Trump raised a 20-by-30-foot (6.1 by 9.1 m) American flag on an 80-foot (24 m) flagpole at Mar-a-Lago. Town zoning officials asked Trump to adhere to town zoning codes that limit flagpoles to a height of 42 feet (13 m). This dispute led the town council of Palm Beach to charge Trump $1,250 for every day that the flag stayed up. Trump filed a lawsuit against the Town of Palm Beach. Trump eventually dropped his lawsuit over the flag, and in exchange the town waived its fines. As part of a court-ordered mediation, Trump was allowed to file for a permit and keep a pole that was both 10 feet (3.0 m) shorter than the original pole and located on a different spot on his lawn. The agreement also required him to donate $100,000 to veterans’ charities, as well as resulted in a change to town ordinances allowing out-of-town enrollees in club membership.
In December 1997, Trump filed a lawsuit against the Town of Palm Beach in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In his suit Trump accused the town of discriminating against Mar-a-Lago for allowing black and Jewish members, groups not typically welcome in the area's other clubs.
According to Vanity Fair, "Trump and his attorney had already implied that he and his club had been discriminated against because many of its members were Jewish, and, worse, that the council members who had placed the conditions on him had not placed those restrictions on their own clubs."
Trump first filed such a lawsuit in 1995; that action was settled in 1996, with the county agreeing to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and to change flight patterns so the noisiest jet aircraft flew over a wider area. As part of the settlement, Trump leased 215 acres from the county, on which he built the 18-hole Trump International Golf Club. In July 2010, Trump filed another lawsuit aiming to stop the airport from constructing a second commercial runway. That suit was dismissed.
Trump filed a third suit against the county in January 2015, seeking $100 million in damages for "creating an unreasonable amount of noise, emissions and pollutants at Mar-a-Lago". Trump claims that officials pressured the FAA to direct air traffic to PBI over Mar-a-Lago in a "deliberate and malicious" act.
In November 2015, a Florida Circuit Court judge ruled against most of Trump's arguments, dismissing four of the six claims and allowing the others to proceed. Trump dropped the lawsuit after winning the presidency, as the estate will likely have a no-fly zone imposed by the FAA. In January 2017, Palm Beach exempted Mar-a-Lago from a ban on landing helicopters on residential properties while Trump is president, including his own fleet and Marine One.
Trump received a $17 million insurance payment for hurricane damage to Mar-a-Lago after the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, for damage to the “landscaping, roofing, walls, painting, leaks, artwork in the — you know, the great tapestries, tiles, Spanish tiles, the beach, the erosion,” as he described. Anthony Senecal, Trump's former butler at the resort and later its "in-house historian," said some trees behind the resort had been flattened and some roof tiles were lost, but “That house has never been seriously damaged. I was there for all of [the hurricanes].”
|journal=(help) and Accompanying 4 photos, exterior, from 1967. (942 KB)
The initiation fee for Mar-a-Lago had been $100,000 since 2012, when it was cut from $200,000. People close to the resort said the fee was reduced following a decline in memberships after the Bernie Madoff scandal, which claimed many wealthy Palm Beach victims.
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