The Mar-a-Lago Club Was a ‘Winter White House’ Even Before President Trump Got There

The estate, now a club owned by President Trump, was a flop as an official presidential retreat

As Zeke J. Miller explores in a feature in this week’s issue of TIME, the story of President Trump’s “Winter White House” at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., is a complicated one. But while Trump’s use of the club may present new challenges, the current President isn’t the first to see the exclusive enclave as a fitting retreat from Washington, D.C.

It was almost exactly 90 years ago, in early 1927, that the cereal heiress and philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband Edward Hutton celebrated the completion of their new estate in Palm Beach. They named the place after its waterside location: Mar-a-Lago.

“Marjorie said she was going to build a little cottage by the sea,” Hutton was often heard to remark. “Look what we got!”

As TIME explained 40 years later, as Post remained one of the most important and most respected figures in the social scenes of several cities, she had turned the “115-room Spanish ‘cottage’ in Palm Beach” into a place known for “exquisite” hospitality, which was given an additional sheen of importance when John F. Kennedy—whose family had long wintered in Palm Beach—spent a few Christmas vacations in the area during his presidency. (The exact number of rooms has changed over time.) The place became a National Historic Site in 1969.

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