Every former United States president has owned some kind of getaway home where the stress of governing may be temporarily relieved. Most are ultimately designated as landmarks under the auspices of the National Park Service. Thomas Jefferson had Monticello; Franklin Roosevelt had Campobello Island; Ronald Reagan had Rancho del Cielo; and George Bush had Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, Maine.
But the one in the news these days is Donald Trump’s very own Obersalzberg, known as Mar-a-Lago.
Did you know that the current full-time residence of our demagogue-in-waiting is a private club, from which the Trump Corporation extracts tidy sums from its members and guests? Whatever! It also has a illustrious design history. Despite the former POTUS’ storied bad taste, the compound and its buildings were designed to exude elegance and celebrate the wealth of an age.
Many people have seen the occasional aerial photograph of the property, but how much do we know about the legacy of Mar-a-Lago? For inquiring minds, here is a short synopsis.
The lavish interior was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth, known for his range of Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and classical Georgian, French and Colonial mansions. The exterior was created by the great Joseph Urban, a prolific and innovative Austrian-born Gilded Age illustrator, designer, architect, and one of the most significant set designers of the early 20th century. He was a member of the Wiener Werkstätte and sold furniture and textiles in its New York showroom. Not solely a master of ornament, it was Urban who designed New York City’s gem of modernity, the Tishman Auditorium at The New School (the venue for many an AIGA, Type Directors Club and Art Directors Club event). He designed buildings throughout the world, from Esterhazy Castle in Hungary to the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The New York Herald-Tribune wrote that Urban “did more than any other man to revolutionize the American sense of design … he had a feeling for color and material so original that they did much to remake the American stage, revitalize American architecture and contribute a new impetus to American industrial design.”
Who knew that the boor of design, D.J. Trump, would be blessed with such a palace of aesthetic beauty.
The ultra exclusive club, an adaptation of the Hispano-Moresque style, is situated in the heart of Palm Beach, fronting the most beautiful two acres of direct access private beach on the East Coast. It’s just not fair.
The property, which translates as “Sea to Lake,” (Sea by the Lake) is also hurricane-resistant, the structures are anchored by concrete and steel to a coral reef, and comprises approximately 20 acres of perfectly landscaped lawns. A National Historic Landmark, the former Marjorie Merriweather Post (once Mrs. E.F. Hutton) owned it before The Trump Organization. It also features six championship tennis courts, a full-size croquet court, a chip and putt golf course, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and the most coveted entertaining spaces: the elegant White and Gold Ballroom, and the ultra sumptuous Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom.