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Trump’s Fight for Mar-a-Lago
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How an attack on the Waspy exclusionary culture of Palm Beach allowed to convert Mar-a-Lago, the town’s famous landmark, into a private club, in theory, open to everyone

When Donald Trump visited Palm Beach with his family in the 1980s, he was so impressed with the town, its beach, and its golf courses that he decided to buy an apartment at the Breakers, the storied condominium complex overlooking the Atlantic. When Trump later learned that Mar-a-Lago, the biggest house in Palm Beach, and the 20th largest mansion in the U.S., was for sale, he was interested.

Mar-a-Lago is a property stretching from the ocean to Lake Worth. Town & Country described it as the fantasy of an American in love with the artistic splendor of Europe, the frescoes of Florence and Venetian arches to introduce and frame water passages. The mansion had a ninety-foot castle tower for unimpeded panoramas of sea and sky. There were 58 bedrooms, a ballroom, a theater, and a golf course.

Mar-a-Lago was built by breakfast-cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in the Roaring Twenties. Shortly before her death, in 1972, she left it to the U.S. government to be used as a winter White House for U.S. presidents. But Nixon preferred his friend Bebe Rebozo’s place in Key Biscayne, and Carter’s administration, trying to avoid the estate’s annual taxes and maintenance costs, returned it to the Post Foundation in 1981.

Post’s three daughters—actress Dina Merrill (from Post’s second marriage, to stock-brokerage founder E. F. Hutton) and her half-sisters, Adelaide Breevort Close and Eleanor Post Close (from their mother’s first marriage, to stockbroker Edward Bennett Close), decided to sell it.

Trump offered $25 million for the 17 acres, the house, and the furnishings, but the sisters wanted more. He then offered $2 million for a beachfront lot in front of Mar-a-Lago, which Post’s foundation had sold earlier. He threatened to put up a hideous home to block Mar-a-Lago’s ocean view. So the price kept going down and down until Trump’s last offer of less than $8 million was accepted.

But now Trump had another problem: he was going broke. He wrote: “I was many billions in the red, $975 million of that debt I’d personally guaranteed... The banks were crawling all over me. The Gulf War had a disastrous effect on tourism.”

When he publicly announced his plan to subdivide the 17 acres of the estate and build mini-mansions, a furor ensued. After a year of hearings the Town Council rejected the plan by a unanimous vote. Trump’s response was: “I’m going to bring a $100 million lawsuit against the town of Palm Beach. I gave [the town] an opportunity, and they blew it. Now, I’m going to get everything I’m entitled to.”

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Gulf War [videos]
The Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Shield for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm in its combat phase, was a war waged by 
Gulf War - Donald Rumsfeld, US special envoy to the Middle East, meets Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983.
Gulf War - Kuwaiti Armed Forces M-84 main battle tanks
Donald Rumsfeld, US special envoy to the Middle East, meets Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983.
Palm Beach, Florida [videos]
The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth. As of 2010, Palm Beach had a year-round population of 8,348. In 2018, Bloomberg ranked Palm Beach as the 
Palm Beach, Florida - Aerial photograph of Palm Beach proper
Palm Beach, Florida - Worth Avenue
Aerial photograph of Palm Beach proper
Worth Avenue
Palm Beach, Florida - Night view of the Big Kapok tree near Flagler Museum
Palm Beach, Florida - Image: Palm Beach proper Florida photo by D Ramey Logan
Night view of the Big Kapok tree near Flagler Museum
Image: Palm Beach proper Florida photo by D Ramey Logan
Mar-a-Lago [videos]
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 128-room, 62,500-square-foot mansion contains the Mar-a-Lago Club, a members-only club with guest rooms, a spa, and other 
Mar-a-Lago - Mar-a-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on Palm Beach Island
Mar-a-Lago - Living room of Mar-a-Lago, 1967
Mar-a-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on Palm Beach Island
Living room of Mar-a-Lago, 1967
Mar-a-Lago - Entrance gate in 2014
Mar-a-Lago - The Trumps hosting Shinzō Abe and his wife at Mar-a-Lago
Entrance gate in 2014
The Trumps hosting Shinzō Abe and his wife at Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump [videos]
Donald John Trump is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. — Trump was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens and received an economics degree from the Wharton School. He was 
Donald Trump - Trump is sworn in as president on January 20, 2017. From left to right: Trump, his wife Melania, and his children Donald Jr., Barron, Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany.
Donald Trump - The distinctive façade of Trump Tower, the headquarters of The Trump Organization, in Midtown Manhattan
Trump is sworn in as president on January 20, 2017. From left to right: Trump, his wife Melania, and his children Donald Jr., Barron, Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany.
The distinctive façade of Trump Tower, the headquarters of The Trump Organization, in Midtown Manhattan
Donald Trump - Central Park's Wollman Rink after the Trump renovation
Donald Trump - Mar-a-Lago in 2009
Central Park's Wollman Rink after the Trump renovation
Mar-a-Lago in 2009
Jimmy Carter [videos]
James Earl Carter Jr. is an American politician and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A Democrat, he previously served as a Georgia State senator from 1963 to 1967 and as the 76th governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975 
Jimmy Carter - The Carter family store (part of Carter's Boyhood Farm) in Plains, Georgia
Jimmy Carter - Campaign flyer from Democratic Party presidential primary
The Carter family store (part of Carter's Boyhood Farm) in Plains, Georgia
Campaign flyer from Democratic Party presidential primary
Jimmy Carter - Carter and President Gerald Ford debating at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia
Jimmy Carter - Robert Templeton's portrait of President Carter, displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC
Carter and President Gerald Ford debating at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia
Robert Templeton's portrait of President Carter, displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC
Condominium [videos]
A condominium, often shortened to condo, in the United States and in most Canadian provinces, is a type of living space similar to an apartment but independently sellable and therefore regarded as real estate. The condominium building structure is divided into several units that are each separately 
Condominium - The Cosmopolitan, a condominium in Singapore
Condominium - Floor plan of a condo - Andrássy avenue, Budapest
The Cosmopolitan, a condominium in Singapore
Floor plan of a condo - Andrássy avenue, Budapest
Condominium - A condominium complex in Singapore next to the Kallang River
Condominium - The interior of a loft condominium in Chicago's west side, USA
A condominium complex in Singapore next to the Kallang River
The interior of a loft condominium in Chicago's west side, USA
Fresco [videos]
Fresco is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid, or wet lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall. The word 
Fresco - Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Rome, Italy
Fresco - Etruscan Civilization fresco depicting a dancer in the Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, Italy
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Rome, Italy
Etruscan Civilization fresco depicting a dancer in the Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, Italy
Fresco - A Roman fresco of a young man from the Villa di Arianna, Stabiae, 1st century AD.
Fresco - An ancient Roman fresco with a banquet scene from the Casa dei Casti Amanti, Pompeii
A Roman fresco of a young man from the Villa di Arianna, Stabiae, 1st century AD.
An ancient Roman fresco with a banquet scene from the Casa dei Casti Amanti, Pompeii
Florence [videos]
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and 
Florence - A collage of Florence showing the Galleria degli Uffizi (top left), followed by the Palazzo Pitti, a sunset view of the city and the Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza della Signoria.
Florence - View of Florence by Hartmann Schedel, published in 1493
A collage of Florence showing the Galleria degli Uffizi (top left), followed by the Palazzo Pitti, a sunset view of the city and the Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza della Signoria.
View of Florence by Hartmann Schedel, published in 1493
Florence - Julius Caesar established Florence in 59 BC
Florence - The Goth King Totila razes the walls of Florence during the Gothic War: illumination from the Chigi manuscript of Villani's Cronica
Julius Caesar established Florence in 59 BC
The Goth King Totila razes the walls of Florence during the Gothic War: illumination from the Chigi manuscript of Villani's Cronica
Venice [videos]
Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located 
Venice - A collage of Venice: at the top left is the Piazza San Marco, followed by a view of the city, then the Grand Canal and interior of La Fenice, as well as the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Venice - Venice in fall, with the Rialto Bridge in the background
A collage of Venice: at the top left is the Piazza San Marco, followed by a view of the city, then the Grand Canal and interior of La Fenice, as well as the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Venice in fall, with the Rialto Bridge in the background
Venice - Grand Canal from Rialto to Ca'Foscari
Venice - Venice view from the Bridge Foscari, to the Bridge Santa Margherita
Grand Canal from Rialto to Ca'Foscari
Venice view from the Bridge Foscari, to the Bridge Santa Margherita
Roaring Twenties [videos]
The Roaring Twenties refers to the decade of the 1920s in Western society and Western culture. It was a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States and Western Europe, particularly in major cities such as Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York City 
Roaring Twenties - Josephine Baker performing the Charleston
Roaring Twenties - British flier Amy Johnson, 1930
Josephine Baker performing the Charleston
British flier Amy Johnson, 1930
Roaring Twenties - Climax of the new architectural style: the Chrysler Building in New York City was built after the European wave of Art Deco reached the United States.
Roaring Twenties - Felix the Cat, a popular cartoon character of the decade, exhibits his famous pace.
Climax of the new architectural style: the Chrysler Building in New York City was built after the European wave of Art Deco reached the United States.
Felix the Cat, a popular cartoon character of the decade, exhibits his famous pace.
Richard Nixon [videos]
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th president of the United States from 1969 to 1974. He had previously served as the 36th vice president of the United States from 1953 to 1961, and prior to that as both a U.S. representative and senator from California. — Nixon was 
Richard Nixon - Nixon (second from right) makes his newspaper debut in 1916, contributing five cents to a fund for war orphans. Donald is to the left of his brother.
Richard Nixon - Nixon at Whittier High School, 1930
Nixon (second from right) makes his newspaper debut in 1916, contributing five cents to a fund for war orphans. Donald is to the left of his brother.
Nixon at Whittier High School, 1930
Richard Nixon - Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon, United States Navy (circa 1945)
Richard Nixon - Nixon on his "station wagon tour" in Sausalito, California, 1950
Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon, United States Navy (circa 1945)
Nixon on his "station wagon tour" in Sausalito, California, 1950
Key Biscayne [videos]
Key Biscayne is an island located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. It is the southernmost of the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast of Florida, and lies south of Miami Beach and southeast of Miami. The key is 
Key Biscayne - Aerial view of Key Biscayne in 1999
Key Biscayne - U.S. Coast Survey Base Marker
Aerial view of Key Biscayne in 1999
U.S. Coast Survey Base Marker
Key Biscayne - Key Biscayne is home of the Miami Masters, an ATP 1000 and WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament held at Crandon Park
Key Biscayne - National Network to Freedom Trail sign commemorating hundreds of Black Seminoles who escaped from Cape Florida in the early 1820s to the Bahamas
Key Biscayne is home of the Miami Masters, an ATP 1000 and WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament held at Crandon Park
National Network to Freedom Trail sign commemorating hundreds of Black Seminoles who escaped from Cape Florida in the early 1820s to the Bahamas
Marjorie Merriweather Post [videos]
Marjorie Merriweather Post was an American socialite and the owner of General Foods, Inc. She used much of her fortune to collect art, particularly pre-revolutionary Russian art, much of which is now on display at Hillwood, the museum that was her estate. She 
Marjorie Merriweather Post - Post in 1942
Marjorie Merriweather Post - Entrance to Mar-a-Lago owner's suite, April 1967
Post in 1942
Entrance to Mar-a-Lago owner's suite, April 1967
Marjorie Merriweather Post - Boathouse at Camp Topridge
Boathouse at Camp Topridge
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant [videos]
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants are a social group of typically wealthy and well-connected white Protestants of British descent. Until after World War II the group dominated American society and culture and the leadership of the Republican party. They were, and still predominantly are, well 
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant - Washington National Cathedral, the Episcopal cathedral in Washington, D.C.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant - Harvard College was a favorite choice; the student body was overwhelmingly WASP well into the 20th century.
Harvard College was a favorite choice; the student body was overwhelmingly WASP well into the 20th century.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant - View of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Traditionally, the Upper East Side has been dominated by WASP families.
View of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Traditionally, the Upper East Side has been dominated by WASP families.
Lake Worth, Florida [videos]
Lake Worth is a city in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States, which takes its name from the body of water along its eastern border known as the Lake Worth Lagoon. The lake itself was named for General William J. Worth, who led U.S. forces during the last part of the Second Seminole War. As of 
Lake Worth, Florida - Lake Worth
Lake Worth, Florida - Lake Worth Lagoon
Lake Worth
Lake Worth Lagoon
Lake Worth, Florida - Lake Worth Pier, damaged by Hurricane Frances, Jeanne and Wilma
Lake Worth Pier, damaged by Hurricane Frances, Jeanne and Wilma
Dina Merrill [videos]
Dina Merrill was an American actress, heiress, socialite, businesswoman, and philanthropist. — Early life — Merrill was born in New York City on December 29, 1923, although for many years her date of birth was given as December 9 
Dina Merrill - Publicity photo of Merrill in 1968
Dina Merrill - Merrill in 1999
Publicity photo of Merrill in 1968
Merrill in 1999
Dina Merrill - Image: Dina Merrill & Bobby Short
Image: Dina Merrill & Bobby Short
Stockbroker [videos]
A stockbroker, share broker, registered representative, trading representative, or more broadly, an investment broker, investment adviser, financial adviser, wealth manager, or investment professional is a regulated broker, broker-dealer 
Stockbroker - Image: Stockbroker
Stockbroker - Image: Emanuel de Witte De binnenplaats van de beurs te Amsterdam
Image: Stockbroker
Image: Emanuel de Witte De binnenplaats van de beurs te Amsterdam
The Breakers (hotel) [videos]
The Breakers Palm Beach is a historic, 538 room, Italian Renaissance-style hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, United States. First known as The Palm Beach Inn, it was opened on January 16, 1896 by oil, real estate, and railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to accommodate travelers on his Florida East Coast 
The Breakers (hotel) - Image: Breakers CIMG0089
Image: Breakers CIMG0089
Edward Francis Hutton [videos]
Edward Francis Hutton was an American financier and co-founder of E. F. Hutton & Co. one of the largest financial firms in the United States. — Early life — Hutton was born in Manhattan, New York City, the son of James Laws Hutton, who left an Ohio 
Edward Francis Hutton - Image: Edward Francis Hutton in 1916
Image: Edward Francis Hutton in 1916
Town & Country (magazine) [videos]
Town & Country, formerly the Home Journal and The National Press, is a monthly American lifestyle magazine. It is the oldest continually published general interest magazine in the United States. — History — Early history — It was founded by poet and essayist Nathaniel Parker Willis and New 
Town & Country (magazine) - June 2007 cover
June 2007 cover
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