Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Winter White House of Marjorie Merriweather Post and nowPresident Donald Trump

  • Spectacular: Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection Hardcover – June 13, 2017by Liana Paredes, Giles 
  • American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather PostJan 4, 2004,by Nancy Rubin Stuart,Paperback,IUniverse
  • Living Artfully: At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post Hardcover – July 16, 2013 by Estella M. Chung ,A History of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's American Castle, Giles Trump Revealed:  Paperback, Scribner
  • Murder at Mar A Lago Paperback – February 8, 2016 by D W Leber
  • Ingenue to Icon: 70 Years of Fashion from the Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post Hardcover – June 16, 2015 by Howard Vincent Kurtz (Author), Trish Donnally (Editor), Nancy Rubin Stuart  (Introduction), GILES
  • Russian Porcelains: The Collections of Marjorie Merriweather Post Hardcover – March, 1969by Marvin C. Ross "A big house is on one acre. I have 24. It's the great estate of Palm Beach." University of Oklahama Press








MARJORIE MERRIWEATHER POST GETTY


In 1973, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post donated her 128-room Palm Beach mansion to the U.S. government to be used as the "winter White House." And now that Donald Trump is president, that legacy has in some sense come true.

Post was one of the world's richest women when she finished building Mar-a-Lago in 1927 at a cost of $7 million. American architect Marion Sims Wyeth designed the estate, which sits on 20 acres that border the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida's Intracoastal Waterway on the other. (Wyeth also designed the Florida governor's mansion in Tallahassee).

Post willed her home to the American government upon her death with the intention that it be used as a warm-weather retreat for the president. But in 1980, the government returned the house to Post's daughters because the $1 million in annual maintenance costs. That was also the year the house was also declared a National Historic Landmark.

MAR-A-LAGO'S LIVING ROOM IN 1967
COURTESY OF FEDERAL HABS—HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY IN FLORIDA

Enter Donald Trump. The mogul's reported first offer for the property—$28 million—was turned down. But he persisted and the market slumped. Trump ended up getting the property for $5 million in 1985, and paid an additional $3 million for Post's antiques and furniture. (Post's Washington, D.C estate, by the way, is now a museum. It's called Hillwood. No word on whether the Donald has toured it yet.)


Trump turned Mar-a-Lago into a private club in 1995 and built a 20,000-square-foot ballroom with $7 million in gold leaf. He also spent $100,00 on four gold-plated sinks. Basically, there's gold everywhere you look. (When Trump is in residence, he and his family stay in a private wing of the house.)

DONALD TRUMP WITH HIS THEN-WIFE IVANA AND STAFF AT MAR-A-LAGO IN 1987.
GETTY

Last spring, Trump's former butler and Mar-a-Lago's unofficial historian, Anthony Senecal told the New York Times about the house's "library, paneled with centuries-old British oak and filled with rare first-edition books that no one in the family ever read." (Senecal was also investigated by the Secret Service last year for threatening comments he made on Facebook about Barack Obama)

Trump hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with the locals over his plans for Mar-a-Lago. In the last decade, for example, he has fought the town of Palm Beach over the size of this American flag. The original, installed in 2006, was on an 80-foot pole and Palm Beach ordinances forbade flag poles higher than 42 feet; violation carries a daily fine of $250.



Trump sued for $25 million claiming his right to free speech was being violated. Ultimately he and the town came to an agreement: Trump switched to a smaller flag posted on a 70-foot pole. And instead of paying fines, he donated $100,000 to veterans' charities.

Then last year Trump sued Palm Beach Country for what he called "deliberate and malicious" moves to direct departing flights from the Palm Beach International Airport over Mar-a-Lago. He dropped that suit in November, after the election. It's a moot point now anyway, as the secret service requested a no-fly zone be established over Mar-a-Lago when Trump is in residence.

When he opened Mar-a-Lago, Trump welcomed Jewish members, African-Americans, and gay couples, who had been prohibited from joining other Palm Beach clubs. Club members reportedly used to pay a $100,000 initiation fee and annual dues of $14,000 (along with taxes and an annual food minimum of $2,000) for the privilege of using the facilities like this pool. On January 1, following Trump's November victory, the inauguration fee was reportedly increased to $200,000.

It is, by most accounts, a profitable business. Trump made $15.6 million from the club in 2014. He reportedly stands to profit even more as president, both through higher fees and through increased interest in the club and its events.

THE BEACH CLUB IS ON THE ATLANTIC OCEAN SIDE OF THE PROPERTY.
GETTY

Trump apparently feels more comfortable at Mar-a-Lago than almost anywhere else, and his pleasure in the estate was in evidence when i spoke to him about it back in 2014. "I have 24 acres in Palm Beach and nobody has anything like that," Trump told me at a show jumping event there in 2014. "A big house is on one acre. I have 24. It's the great estate of Palm Beach."

The estate is actually 20 acres, but who's counting?

What It's Like at Mar-a-Lago When President Trump Visits



Donald Trump's presence at Mar-a-Lago is ubiquitous, even when he's not actually at the club.



THE TRUMP CREST AT MAR-A-LAGO GETTY

There's the Trump crest at the entrance, next to which the president and Japanese prime minister posed with their wives last weekend, an oversized portrait of the president in tennis whites at the bar, and of course, Trump-branded bottled water.

And while Mar-a-Lago's founder, the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, intended for the estate to be used as a Winter White House after her death, this is the first time a president has used a private, for-profit club that he owns as a presidential getaway.

Here's the changes are affecting life at what has traditionally been a place of peaceful relaxation.

THERE'S SOME EPIC PALM BEACH TRAFFIC

"Oh my god, it's crazy!" Guy Clark, an interior designer who lives between Palm Beach and New York, said of the never-before-seen traffic snarls in his town. "It used to take me seven minutes to drive from my office in town to my place on South Ocean Boulevard. When Trump was in town the other day, it took me 45 minutes!"

Clark, who says most of his clients belong to the club, points out that Trump's presence affects everyone in the surrounding area whether or not they go to Mar-a-Lago, where he celebrated his wedding lunch. "For instance trucks can't go on South Ocean Boulevard when he's here. I have a bunch of cars so I have to make sure I leave my Range Rover at home and take a regular car," he said.



TRUMP'S PRESENCE NOW REQUIRES ROAD CLOSURES AND DETOURS IN PALM BEACH. GETTY


THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD SHUTS DOWN WHEN TRUMP VISITS


Security perimeters are set up around not just the club's borders, but the surrounding neighborhood as well. The town of Palm Beach now posts the road closures on its website in advance of presidential weekend visits, which, according to Politico, each cost taxpayers more than $3 million.

If you are a resident living within the zones established by the secret service, you will be granted access with a driver's license with an address in the affected area or an official identification card with their local address issued by the Town of Palm Beach's police department, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.

Not all residents have caught on, however. The other night, during one of Trump's first visits as president, one of Clark's friends who lives near the club was having a party. Her guests were turned away by secret service. "Nobody could get to her party, nobody! She didn't know she had to provide a list to the police," Clark said. There's no history of this so we don't what to do. It's not like we're in D.C. and we've done this a thousand times. This is new for us here in Palm Beach, and we don't know how to react to it."




DONALD AND MELANIA TRUMP ATTEND THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS BALL AT MAR-A-LAGO IN 2005.
GETTY


YOU'LL WAIT TO GET INTO THE CLUB ITSELF


Once cars get past the initial roadblocks, they must be inspected at one of two checkpoints, according to the Palm Beach Daily News, which is known as the Shiny Sheet because of its bright, heavy stock. There's a northern checkpoint near South County Road and a southern checkpoint in the parking lot of the Bath & Tennis Club to the south of Mar-A-Lago.

The checkpoints, the local newspaper reports, "includes flashlight searches of the engine and trunk, a look at the vehicle's undercarriage using mirrors and a sniff test by trained dogs." Then "once the vehicle passes muster, the driver is issued a security ticket, heads to the roadblock and waits for security officers to move barriers to to allow them to enter the neighborhood."

Phil Salm, a spokesman for the Palm Beach Police Department, said "this is the plan moving forward unless the Secret Service changes it."



A U.S. COAST GUARD BOAT PATROLS THE INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY NEAR MAR-A-LAGO. GETTY

A representative from the U.S. Secret Service would not comment on the road closures and what sort of security measures are in place at the club itself, but sources told T&C that metal detectors were added to the club's entrance last year and are permanently in place.

The addition has meant waiting on line to get into the club. "The first night they started making people go through metal detectors, the manager of Mar-a-Lago came and got my husband and me and said, 'You better go through first because the line is going to be crazy,'" Clark said. "You have to go an hour early to Mar-a-Lago now because you don't know how many times you're going to have to go through checkpoints."

Others aren't as phased by the protective protocol.

"Mar-a-Lago always had a lot of security to begin with," said Jane Pontarelli, a real estate broker with Douglas Elliman who joined the club about 18 years ago. Trump "was always cognizant of people's safety, which I happened to like."

Toni Holt Kramer, a former Los Angeles talk show host who founded a group called the Trumpettes with the goal of helping Trump get elected, said that the high security presence "is only fitting" and that she believes Trump "is still the same man he always was to all of us. I believe he regards his members like family and therefore treats us as such."

BAD NEWS FOR ANYONE FLYING PRIVATE

With Trump's election, the air space over Mar-a-Lago got more complicated. At the request of the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration developed a temporary flight restriction, known as a TFR, an FAA spokesperson said. While commercial flights can operate as normal when the TFR is in effect, general aviation flights—which include private and business jets operating within a 10-nautical-mile range of Mar-a-Lago—are subject to enhanced TSA security screening at a "gateway airport" in order to land in Palm Beach.

WHEN TRUMP IS AT MAR-A-LAGO, THE FAA IMPOSES A TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTION AROUND THE PROPERTY. FAA

That means that one of the perks of flying on a private plane—no security screening—has disappeared, and for flights that don't originate at one of the gateways (Teterboro, Westchester County, Dulles International, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale) an additional airport stop for TSA screening is required.

Aircraft operators have to register with the TSA 24 hours prior to their scheduled departure time, a TSA spokesperson said. The gateway screenings, the spokesperson said, "include ID verification of all pilots, crew, and passengers, screening of all persons and baggage, and inspection of the aircraft."

The FAA's new guidelines did solve one problem that has plagued the president and his club for decades. Mar-a-Lago is two-and-a-half miles east of Palm Beach International Airport, and the layout of the runways there mean the club is within the flight paths of departing and arriving aircraft. Since 1995, citizen Trump has waged a series of legal battles to keep planes from flying over.

Winning the presidency solved that problem, at least when Trump is there. The FAA now restricts flights from overflying the estate when Trump is in residence, requiring them to fly to the north or south instead. Trump dropped his last $100 million lawsuit in November.

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