Mrs. Post entertained thousands of guests in these sumptuous rooms over the next forty-six years. In 1929, she invited underprivileged children to watch the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus perform charity fundraising acts that featured clowns, trapeze artists, and the world's smallest mule. She also allowed counseling and occupational therapy rooms for World War II veterans in 1944, offering training for carpentry, printing, and sculpting, and hosted the International Red Cross Ball in 1957 and several times more.5 Eventually, Mrs. Post wanted to sell her property to the state of Florida for advanced scholars to use, but maintenance costs turned the government away. So, by 1968, she willed Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. government for use a winter Winter White House.6 At one point, in July 1974, President Richard Nixon took a thirty-minute tour of the estate.7 But the government also could not resolve security and financial concerns and so returned to property to Post's daughters in 1981. Four years later, Donald Trump obtained the mansion for about $8 million, $17 million less than the initial price.8
Donald Trump used Mar-a-Lago as a private home until April 1995, when the estate officially became The Mar-a-Lago Club. Today, new features include an oceanfront swimming pool, beauty salon, spa, five red clay championship tennis courts, and a croquet court, as well as the twenty-thousand-square-foot Grand Ballroom with twenty-four-karat gold leafing added in 2005.9 He also kept Mrs. Post's three bomb shelters that she had installed during the Korean War.10 Famous Mar-a-Lago guests include Prince Charles, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Bennett, Barbara Walters, Paul Anka, Regis Philbin, and Joan Rivers.11 Then-Mr. Trump distinguished Mar-a-Lago from other Palm Beach resorts by including Jews and African-Americans in a club membership and by becoming the island's first private club owner to admit an openly gay couple soon after it opened.12 These firsts, along with new features, have grown the club's membership to make the estate worth $160 million in 2018—sixteen times what Mr. Trump paid in 1985.13However, becoming President generated new controversy that has shed a negative light on what was once considered the jewel of Palm Beach.
Mar-a-Lago has been at the center of controversy since President Donald Trump took the oath of office. After his inauguration, President Trump took four trips to Mar-a-Lago between February and March 2017 that cost American taxpayers approximately $13.6 million; $10.6 million covered government aircraft and boats, and $3 million covered lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. One trip involved meeting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and his wife (both met the President for a second time at the resort in April.). Additionally, Mar-a-Lago earned $60,000 in expenses from these four trips, fueling claims that the President benefits from this government spending and provides Mar-a-Lago free publicity.14 Despite the controversy, President Trump has granted Mrs. Post's wish that the President of the United States would one day utilize Mar-a-Lago.