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  • September 27, 2011

    The Mar-a-Lago Estate History

    The Mar-a-Lago Estate was opened officially in January of 1927 after four years of construction. Marjorie Merriweather Post (then Mrs. E.F. Hutton) searched for several years to find a proper location between the ocean and Lake Worth. The quest for a new home was begun when it became apparent that she was to be the dowager queen of Palm Beach. At the time, there was little else here but undergrowth and swampy grounds, seemingly of not much use for a building site. With her realtor, she crawled through underbrush of jungle-type growth; the consequence of that search is the main house “Mar-a-Lago”, which is Latin for “Sea to Lake.” This hurricane resistant structure is anchored by concrete and steel to a coral reef, and the whole of the property comprises approximately twenty acres of perfectly landscaped lawns. Across the southeast lawn, a Chattahoochee stone path leads to a tunnel under South Ocean Boulevard which opens onto the Beach Club. The site on which Mar-a-Lago sits is now considered the most valuable parcel of land anywhere in Florida.
    The main house is an adaptation of the Hispano-Moresque style, long popular among the villas of the Mediterranean. It is crescent-shaped with an upper and lower cloister along the concave side of the building that faces Lake Worth. A seventy-five foot tower tops the structure, affording a magnificent view in all directions for miles. Three boatloads of Dorian stone were brought from Genoa, Italy for the construction of the exterior walls, arches and some of the interior. The stone was chosen for its quality of aging rapidly and for its adaptability to intricate carving. Upon close examination, tiny seashells and
    fossils can be seen in this distinctive stone of the 114 room ocean-to-lake villa. One of the attractions of Mar-a-Lago is the predominant use of Old Spanish tiles throughout. Mrs. Post acquired approximately 36,000 tiles that had been collected by the late Mrs. Horace Havermeyer in the 1800’s. Among the earliest tiles, dating back to the 15th century, is the “Plus Ultra” tile, translated as “Beyond the Ultimate”, a Roman influence upon the Moors.
    The architecture, sculpture, planning and craftsmanship that went into this magnificent estate could not be duplicated today. It was Mrs. Post’s plan to bring together many Old World features of the Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese styles. She worked closely with Marion Wyeth, a well-known architect, on the exact size, placement and design of the floor plan. Joseph Urban, once the architect for the Emperor Franz Joseph and for the Khedive of Egypt, was called in from Vienna for the more elaborate details. Urban then sent to Vienna for eminent sculptor Professor Franz Barwig and his son who worked for nearly three years modeling and carving extraordinary sculptures. The models for the parrots, monkeys and other motifs are still preserved on the premises.
    Practically all labor came from adjacent areas; the ironwork was cast and wrought in West Palm Beach, and the fine old cypress wood for doors, beams and every other possible use was purchased locally. The only exceptions were the Dorian stone, the Spanish tiles, the approximately 20,000 Cuban roofing tiles, and 2,200 square feet of black and white marble from an old castle in Cuba, which was used for the dining room floor.
    In January 1969, The Department of the Interior designated the estate as “The Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site”. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 by an Act of Congress. Until her death in 1973, Mrs. Post used the estate as a haven for many notable dignitaries. After her death, the estate was transferred by her will to the Federal Government for use as a diplomatic/presidential retreat. Ten years later, due to maintenance and security concerns, the government conferred title to the Post Foundation. In 1985, Donald J. Trump purchased the property from the Post Foundation and used the estate as a private residence until 1995. In April of 1995, Mar-a-Lago became established as The Mar-a-Lago Club. It is the last remaining Palm Beach estate still containing its buildings and land in almost identical form as its original conception. With the granting of easements to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Mar-a-Lago Club carries with it a built in constituency that ensures its stewardship into the future.
    Donald J. Trump has since built a magnificent swimming pool, an award winning beauty salon, a world-class spa, one grass and five red clay championship tennis courts and a remarkable croquet court. The property also boasts two retail outlets: a tennis pro shop overlooking Lake Worth and a boutique adjacent to the Trump Spa. In addition, Mr. Trump has modernized the Gold & White Ballroom, brought back to life the pitch and putt golf course, and built a magnificent Beach Club… the finest on the Island of Palm Beach. Completed in 2005 is the all-new Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom. At 20,000 sq. feet, it is the largest on the island. The exterior was designed in the Spanish / Mediterranean style to conform to the exterior of the house. The interior is in a Louis XIV gold and crystal finish that is one of the finest spaces of its kind in the country. In a new building adjacent to the ballroom is a complementary state-of-the-art kitchen.
    The Mar-a-Lago Club has a special quality of timelessness that transcends the transition into the new millennium. The splendor, style and elegance of what may be the world’s most beautiful and exclusive private club is truly ageless. Donald J. Trump has invested millions of dollars in restoring and upgrading this “Jewel of Palm Beach,” creating the finest experience anywhere in luxury, relaxation, dining, entertainment and recreation – all in an unparalleled setting.

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