This is Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's gilded refuge
"My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents," former president Donald Trump announced on August 8. "They even broke into my safe!" As it turned out, FBI agents entered Trump's gilded palace in southern Florida to look for documents that belong to the U.S. government, including possible evidence of a crime.
Donald Trump may have thought that his quaint home in Palm Beach was a safe haven - off limits to the authorities. He has a long history with the resort, and before his arrival, it was already a striking presence in the South Florida landscape. What's the story of Mar-A-Lago?
Donald Trump was a convinced New Yorker until he lost the elections and decided to leave his familiar city, his comfortable triplex and his skyscrapers to take refuge in sunny Florida. Above all, he went to enjoy the exteriors and interiors of his Mar-A-Lago mansion, with nooks and crannies like this one: billiard cues next to a sporty painting.
When Donald Trump bought the Mar-a-Lago luxury resort in the 1980s, he had no idea that he would become President of the United States. He was still happily going about his daily life in New York while this Palm Beach acquisition served, above all, as the perfect setting for parties. Bands like the Beach Boys sang for Trump and his guests.
The property had been semi-abandoned for years and it was in 1985 that Trump bought it and promoted its use as a luxury holiday home establishment. He also reserved an entire area for his personal residence. Among the novelties that Trump incorporated were five tennis courts.
One of the stories circulating about how Trump got his hands on Mar-a-Lago at a good price (about $10 million) is that the tycoon got hold of the adjacent properties and then circulated the news that he would build there and leave Mar-a-Lago without its fabulous ocean views and exclusive seclusion. That way, allegedly, he managed to lower the initial price substantially.
The Mar-a-Lago complex was built between 1924 and 1927 by millionaire Marjorie Merriweather Post, a courageous, restless and art-loving woman. When she died, she wanted to donate the site as a summer resort for presidents. Her proposal was not heeded, however, and in the 1980s the property returned to the Post family. They, in turn, sold it to Trump.
Mar-a-Lago was built in what is called Spanish-style architecture, very popular among the elites of the 1920s. It has since been renovated and adapted to the demands of luxury by the wealthy people who make the pilgrimage to Palm Beach, one of the most exclusive places in the United States and the world.
The complex has historical and architectural value: it is recognised as a National Historic Landmark by the federal government.
The interiors of Mar-a-Lago are a display of old-school luxury. No modernity, but instead a design with chandeliers, hardwoods, carpets and all the paraphernalia that someone like Trump prefers.
In the 1980s and 1990s, when Trump was concerned with his businesses and media appearances, Mar-a-Lago was the place for his best parties. Here he is with his then-wife Marla Maples and his daughter Tiffany in 1997.
Mar-a-Lago is most of all a business. It consists of 10,000 square metres, 126 rooms, and a very exclusive club that is not easily accessible.
All kinds of guests have frequented the Mar-a-Lago club and resort. If we look for photographs taken (according to Getty Images) at Mar-a-Lago, there is one snapshot that the former president would surely want to erase. Trump coincided at Palm Beach parties with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Epstein would take his own life in his prison cell in 2019 after being arrested for building a network of abuse of young women. When the scandal broke, Trump said he did not know the man. Other reports suggested that he and Epstein had not spoken to each other for many years because of an argument.
Another snapshot for the photo album of Mar-a-Lago, which Trump promoted as a resort in the 1990s by building a ballroom of almost 2,000 square metres (6,500 ft) and organising performances by artists such as Billy Joel and Celine Dion. Celebrities of the calibre of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley spent their honeymoon here.
Although Mar-a-Lago has had its moments of crisis (and the pandemic has hit hard), it's not bad business for Trump: in 2019 it made a profit of $21 million.
Mar-a-Lago's luxurious accommodations are available to guests at prices that vary depending on the type of accommodation and the season. The price usually ranges from US$600 to US$2,000 per day.
During Trump's presidency, Mar-a-Lago was his second home after the White House. He held meetings there, hosted foreign leaders and tweeted furiously, as usual.
With the presidency gone, Mar-a-Lago has become a permanent home for Melania and Donald Trump. As Vanity Fair reported shortly after the end of Trump's term, Melania appeared happier at the resort than she had been in the White House.
According to Vanity Fair, insiders claimed Melania was very much at ease in the privacy of her gilded home. She'd go to the spa in the morning, have lunch, go to the spa again, and have dinner with Donald. Nice and easy!
Trump has built a kind of royal court in his gilded retreat at Mar-a-Lago. He is surrounded by several members of his family who have also come to live in Florida. Donald Jr, Ivanka and Tiffany have already settled in the area.
Donald Trump does not rule out running for president in 2024. From his sunny base in Florida, he has been hatching plots and working to return to some kind of power - whether it is in business, media, or politics. It remains to be seen whether the FBI will interfere with his plans.