© 2024 91.9 KVCR

KVCR is a service of the San Bernardino Community College District.

San Bernardino Community College District does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, creed, religion, disability, marital status, veteran status, national origin, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

701 S Mt Vernon Avenue, San Bernardino CA 92410
Where you learn something new every day.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mar-a-Lago's legacy began long before Trump


We've been hearing quite a bit lately about Mar-a-Lago, but its rich history began long before Donald Trump ever moved in. Heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post built the Palm Beach property back in the 1920s.

MICHAEL LUONGO: Mar-a-Lago is a classic Spanish Revival, Spanish Renaissance, Mediterranean Revival mansion of the 1920s - very, very much of its time, very opulent.


That's Michael Luongo. He dug into Mar-a-Lago's history for Smithsonian Magazine. Marjorie Merriweather Post spent about $7 million building it. Adjusted for today's inflation, that is more than $100 million.

CHANG: According to her obituary, she built the estate because her first Florida home, quote, "became too small for her parties." With 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms, Mar-a-Lago was just the right size to host royalty, diplomats, charity events and costume balls. Post even opened up Mar-a-Lago to World War II veterans that needed occupational therapy in 1944.

LUONGO: She was a wealthy society woman who was very hands-on and knew how to use Mar-a-Lago for very good purposes for the United States and for the local community.

SHAPIRO: When Post died in 1973, she wanted that to continue. She left Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. government, hoping it would be a retreat for presidents and diplomats - a, quote, "winter White House." But the federal government decided it was too expensive to maintain.

CHANG: So then, in 1985, real estate mogul Donald Trump bought the property for $5 million, plus millions more for the house's antiques, saving Mar-a-Lago from meeting the same fate that so many of Palm Beach's extravagant properties of that era met - demolition.

LUONGO: Without Donald Trump, would that house have been preserved or not? So that's another thing to think about.

SHAPIRO: In 2017, Mar-a-Lago did become then-President Trump's winter White House, where he hosted press conferences and a number of world leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

CHANG: So in a way, decades after her death, Marjorie Merriweather Post got her wish. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.