Mar-a-Lago history and club timeline: details, photos – WWD

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Today, Mar-a-Lago is strongly associated with former President Donald Trump, but the club has an intriguing history as an estate and a National Historic Landmark.

The Palm Beach, Florida property has not always been a members-only club or used for official purposes. It was first a large mansion built by Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress of what was previously known as Post Cereals (now named General Foods Corp.) to live there as a home.

After Post’s death in 1973, she bequeathed the property to the National Park Service in hopes that it would be used for state visits or as an official residence for United States presidents. However, the upkeep cost was more than Post originally provided, causing it to eventually be returned to the Post Foundation in 1981.

In 1985, Donald Trump bought the 17-acre Florida property for around $8 million, although some sources put the total combined cost at around $10 million.

When he was president from 2017 to 2021, Trump used the estate as his “winter white house”, and it was used as a vacation home during the winter months.

Here, WWD breaks down everything you need to know about the Mar-a-Lago Club. Scroll to find out more.

When was Mar-a-Lago built?

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Walter McBride/MediaPunch/IPx

The Mar-a-Lago property, which means “from the sea to the lake” in Spanish, was purchased in 1924 for Post and her husband Edward F. Hutton to live there. She hired Marion Sims Wyeth and Joseph Urban to design and create the house, which was completed in 1927.

According to the Smithsonian, Post spent about $7 million building and furnishing the house, which is located on the Palm Beach Barrier — a sum that today stands at about $110 million.

Why was Mar-a-Lago built?

WASHINGTON, DC - June 9: Marjorie Merriweather Post at a birthday reception honoring Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy.  (Photo by Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Marjorie Merriweather Post at a birthday reception for Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Post built the house for herself and her husband Hutton. The grand estate has 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms (with gold-plated fixtures), and an 1,800 square foot living room with ceilings up to 42 feet high. The property, which reportedly spans 110,000 square feet, is clad in gold leaf, Italian marble, Spanish tiles, and Venetian silks.

When Post died in 1973, she had hoped the house could be used for presidents and dignitary meetings by donating it to the US government. However, Richard Nixon already preferred his Winter White House in Key Biscayne, Florida, and Jimmy Carter did not use the house at all.

This, in addition to the high cost of maintenance and security for possible important meetings, prompted the government to return the property to the Post Foundation in 1981. The cost of maintenance would have been around $1 million dollars per year.

Later that year, Mar-a-Lago entered the market at a listing price of $20 million.

When, why and how much did Donald Trump buy Mar-a-Lago?

Family portrait of, from left, socialite Ivana Trump, her son Eric Trump, her former husband, businessman Donald Trump, and daughter Ivanka Trump seated at a table at the Mar-a-Lago estate, Palm Beach, Florida, 1998. (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)

Ivana Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump seated at a table at the Mar-a-Lago estate in 1998.

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Donald Trump, then a famous business and real estate mogul, wanted the house, so he reportedly offered an initial price of $28 million, he claimed, according to The Washington Post. However, it was refused.

He first heard about the property when he was unable to buy two apartments in Palm Beach to combine for his family.

Trump claimed he bought the beachfront property right across from Mar-a-Lago and threatened to build a big house to block his ocean view, leading to a dramatic drop in interest in the domain.

In 1985, he bought the house for $5 million, with an additional $3 million for it to come with its furnishings.

Why did Donald Trump use Mar-a-Lago?

A married American couple, real estate developer Donald Trump (left) and actress Marla Maples (right), stand with former competitive swimmer Marjorie Post Dye (1928 - 2015) (center) on stage during a roaring twenties party at the Mar-a-Lago Estate, Palm Beach, Florida, December 9, 1995. (Photo by Davidoff Studios Photography/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, Marjorie Post Dye and Marla Maples at a Roaring ’20s party at Mar-a-Lago in 1995.

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For the next eight years he used Mar-a-Lago as his residence before turning it into a club. He and his family still maintain private accommodation in a gated and separate part of the estate and grounds.

During his tenure, he added a Louis XIV-inspired ballroom that featured a 40-foot ceiling and gold leaf pasted to the walls, for which he reportedly paid $7 million, according to the Washington Post. . He also added five clay tennis courts and a waterfront swimming pool. At the time, his then-wife Ivana Trump, who died last month at the age of 73, ran the property.

PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 13: The Donald J. Trump Ballroom at Mar-A-Lago Club' in Palm Beach where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke after the Florida Primary on March 13, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida (Photo by Brooks Kraft/Getty Images)

The Donald J. Trump Ballroom at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach in March 2016.

Getty Images

In the 1990s, Trump faced financial difficulties and consequently told his bankers he would split the property into small homes, which alarmed Palm Beach residents who feared the plan would turn a quiet street in a noisy street.

Then, Trump turned the house into a private club in 1994.

Exterior of Mar-A-Lago, at 1100 South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, Florida, 1967. The Mediterranean-style villa was designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth and is the home of famed philanthropist and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post.  (Photo by Library of Congress/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Exterior of Mar-a-Lago.

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Interior view of Mar-A-Lago, at 1100 South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, Florida, 1967. The Mediterranean-style villa was designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth and is the home of the famous philanthropist and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post.  (Photo by Library of Congress/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Interior view of Mar-a-Lago.

Getty Images

Over the years, the club has seen notable guests such as Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Elton John, Billy Joel and Diana Ross, among others, who have performed at balls and charity events. Disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his close friend and associate Ghislaine Maxwell have also attended events and parties there.

Initially, a Mar-a-Lago membership required an initiation fee of $200,000. In 2012, due to the Bernie Madoff scandal, which affected many local residents at the time, the fee dropped to $100,000.

In January 2017, after Trump was elected president, the initiation fee went up to $200,000, with $14,000 annual dues.

From left, US property developer Donald Trump and his girlfriend (and future wife), former model Melania Knauss, musician Michael Bolton and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach , Florida, February 12, 2000. (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)

Melania Knauss (now Trump), Donald Trump, Michael Bolton and Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club.

Getty Images

While he was president, Trump visited the club often, using it as his winter White House.

During his tenure, he held important meetings there with other world leaders, such as President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, President Xi Jinping of China and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

In 2019, Mar-a-Lago became the primary residence of Trump and his wife Melania Trump. Their previous primary residence was in New York.

Why is Mar-a-Lago relevant now?

This week, the FBI searched the club for evidence that Trump mishandled classified documents that may have been brought there.

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