Being President is a stressful job.
That’s especially true if your name is Donald Trump and you not only have to deal with the intricacies of government, but also with a hostile press and obstructionist opposition party.
Just staying sane calls for a reasonable amount of escape from the never-ending commotion in Washington, D.C.
To that end, the concept of a “Winter White House” has become a tradition in American politics.
From Franklin Roosevelt’s “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia to Barack Obama’s Plantation Estate in Honolulu, Hawaii, the idea of a presidential “home away from home” is one that captures the public imagination, making Americans feels like the Commander-in-Chief really is a human being who needs vacation time as much as anybody else.
Considering Florida’s enviably warm climate, it’s no surprise the Sunshine State is among the top presidents’ retreats. Warren G. Harding, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon all called Florida home when the cold weather came rolling around to D.C.
In fact, it was President Nixon’s property in Key Biscayne that was first honored with the “Winter White House” nickname.
Of all the secondary presidential residences, perhaps none has been more truly deserving of being called a Winter White House than President Trump’s lavish Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
Boasting 126 rooms and 62,500 feet of space (not to mention a spa, ballroom, and five tennis courts), Mar-a-Lago gives the actual White House a run for its money.
President Trump’s favorite getaway spot is the fascinating collision of two very different worlds. Built from 1924 to 1927 by breakfast cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, Mar-a-Lago long stood as a symbol of Palm Beach’s uber-wealthy social elite.
But the estate’s transfer into the hands of the polemic real estate tycoon in 1985 made Mar-a-Lago something of an anomaly in the area. Trump represented the fast-moving world of the nouveau riche more than the old money crowd that dominated Palm Beach.
When President Trump turned Mar-a-Lago into a private club in the ’90s, he went against norms at other local resorts by admitting blacks and Jews. He used his estate to host concerts by stars like Celine Dion and Billy Joel, prompting constant complaints from neighbors about violated noise ordinances.
Disgruntled locals felt the new resident upset the established order of a community that saw itself as a remnant of the Gilded Age.
But there’s one oft-overlooked fact about Mar-a-Lago that makes it a true case of fulfilled destiny.
Upon her death in 1973, Marjorie Post willed Mar-a-Lago to the National Park Service for use as–ironically–a Winter White House.
Presidents Nixon and Carter paid the property no attention. Eventually, the immense costs of maintaining the estate forced the government to return it to Post Foundation in 1981. Post’s descendants hoped to rid themselves of the financial burden by selling it.
Even after Mar-a-Lago was declared a National Historic Landmark, few potential buyers were interested. Until Donald Trump arrived on the scene.
The flamboyant New York businessman wanted to break into Palm Beach, and unsuccessfully attempted to purchase and combine two apartments in the area.
When he learned Mar-a-Lago was up for sale, Trump offered the Post family $25 million. But the owners rejected him.
Not one to accept defeat, the future Commander-in-Chief paid KFC executive Jack C. Massey $2 million for the land between Mar-a-Lago and the ocean. When Trump said he would use the land to build a house that would block Mar-a-Lago’s lush beach view, its property value declined.
As a result, Trump ended up nabbing the historic estate for just $7 million.
The “Art of the Deal” author managed to keep hold of Mar-a-Lago through two divorces, using it as his top destination for getting away from the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle.
When Trump acquired Mar-a-Lago in 1985, few people imagined that 30 years later he would run for President–much less actually win.
As a matter of fact, the entrepreneur and pop culture icon was asked about his presidential ambitions for decades–but repeatedly dismissed rumors he was entertaining a political career.
Fate has a strange way of working. By an unexpected turn of events, Marjorie Post’s vision of having her prized estate serve as a Winter White House came true.
Some things are just meant to be.
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