A peek inside Donald Trump's historic Palm Beach palace
In 1924, a cereal heiress reportedly crawled through Palm Beach’s thick beach jungle with her real estate agent, looking for a large tract of land where a huge house could be anchored to the limestone bedrock.
Three years later, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s immense Mar-a-Lago opened for the 1927 winter season, crowning 17 ocean-to-lake acres where South Ocean Boulevard meets Southern Boulevard.
Today, it’s the last of Palm Beach’s most majestic Jazz Age estates to remain intact, thanks to its two strong-willed owners, Post and Donald Trump.
Originally, the main house was 55,700 square feet, with 118 rooms, 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms. Marion Sims Wyeth did the design, but Post then brought in Viennese theatre designer Joseph Urban to jazz up the place. Urban frosted Mar-a-Lago in an unrestrained river of gold leaf, gold bathroom fixtures, rare marbles, carved stone and ancient Portuguese tile. Rooms were modeled after European palaces. Workers used up the country’s entire stock of gold leaf when gilding the living room, with its 42-foot ceiling.
Post’s pink and gold marble bathroom was so large it functioned as her morning office and dressing room.
The long rear lawn sloping west to Lake Worth (the Intracoastal Waterway today) was a place for garden parties and charity events.
After Post died in 1973, her will granted the estate to the U.S. government for use as a winter White House, but not even American presidents could afford to live like Palm Beach grandees. “Thanks but no thanks,” the government said, citing Mar-a-Lago’s expensive maintenance costs and its site under Palm Beach International Airport’s flight path.
Mar-a-Lago lay mothballed for more than a decade, until Donald Trump paid $10 million for the house and furnishings in 1985.
With his then-wife, Ivana, Trump restored the estate and invited the Palm Beach Post to see the results in 1993. The 30-by-50-foot dining room designed to resemble Rome’s Chigi Palace still contained its marble-topped table to seat 34.
The Spanish room, where Post installed visiting Congressmen and European royalty, retained its tiled fireplace containing niches fitted with porcelain ladies-in-waiting figures.
Plaster roses climbed the fireplace then twined around the windows of the children’s suite, where Post’s daughter, actress Dina Merrill, grew up.
After the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping, Post had a guard posted outside the suite, where “Deenie” slept in a silver-leafed canopy bed.
Trump was married to his second wife, Marla Maples, when he won a protracted battle with the Town of Palm Beach to turn the mansion into the Mar-a-Lago Club. Fragile furnishings not appropriate for club use were sold. Small tables for intimate dining were installed in the dining room, where club members dined on Post’s own china and Venetian crystal.
Trump constructed a new beach club, new ballroom, spa, tennis and croquet courts and opened the club in 1995.
A portrait of Trump wearing a tennis sweater hangs over the bar.
Trump and Melania, his third wife, often appear together at weekend events.