Mar-a-Lago: An insider’s view of Trump’s Florida estate

Forget Camp David, where previous White House occupants went to relax, entertain friends or meet with foreign leaders. President Trump has proven he prefers Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Florida.

It was from this 100,000-square-foot palatial estate that he ordered the Tomahawk missile strike at the Shayrat Airbase in Syrian while meeting with the president of China. He has also entertained the Japanese leader at Mar-a-Lago.

Here on this tony barrier island on Florida’s Atlantic Coast is where the action is, luring sightseers, protesters, pro-Trump supporters and leading government figures.

But unless you’re a member of his Mar-a-Lago Club, or a guest at one of its lavish charity balls, chances are you won’t get near the place when the president is in town. Land and sea approaches to the 17.5-acre compound are routinely cordoned off by Secret Service and local police.

Trump purchased the more than 120-room residence and its furnishings in 1985 for nearly $10 million. Ten years later he turned it into a private club that his company operates as a business, and promoted it as an opulent, historic property with 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces and three bomb shelters.

One section is sealed off for the private use of his family.

After taking office, the price for joining the club was raised to $200,000, double what it was before the election. The Trump Organization justified the increase, contending $200,000 had been the original price but was reduced to $100,000 during the recession. Its annual dues/dining fee total, $16,000, was not changed, however.

The club has nearly 500 members. As Palm Beach residents, my wife and I attended a couple lectures at Mar-a-Lago (Spanish for “Sea to Lake”).

Rooms have the feeling and museum-like trappings of a Loire Valley French chateau. There are marble floors, rare Oriental carpets, old paintings and 16th-century Flemish tapestries.

Large portraits of Trump wearing a white sweater and Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress who built Mar-a-Lago, face each other on opposite walls in a large, sumptuous room copied from a Venetian palace.

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