Trump’s $95m Mansion is now a tear-down

When it comes time for an accounting of the excess of these times, there must be at least a footnote devoted to Maison de L’Amitie.

It’s the name of the single-family residence at 515 N. County Road, in Palm Beach, a sprawling compound of four separate living quarters on a 2.8 hectare lot that fronts 144 metres of Atlantic Ocean. Eight years ago, a Russian fertiliser billionaire bought the refurbished mansion from Donald Trump for US$95 million ($124 million).

Today it’s a knock-down.

Donald Trump's old mansion Maison de l'amitie is being bulldozed by it's new owner.</p>
<p>Photo by Greg LovettDonald Trump’s old mansion Maison de l’amitie is being bulldozed by it’s new owner.

Photo by Greg Lovett

Approved to be demolished and carted away in pieces. The whole works: The 5736 square metre French provincial-style main residence, the 489 square metre two-story Mediterranean-style carriage house; the 597 square metre pool house and the 767 square metre tennis house.

Much of it had been remodelled and in need of only some minor cosmetic repairs.

But it’s all coming down, along with the lion-statue fountain, the ballroom, the 48-car garage, and 92 of the 152 trees on the property. Basically everything but a partial driveway and the 22-zone water sprinkling system will disappear, as if this home – hailed as the highest single-family home sale in the United States – had never existed.

Maison de  l'Amitie in Palm Beach, Florida, is a single-family residence on a 3-hectare lot fronting 145 metres of Atlantic Ocean. It now faces the wrecking ball.

Maison de l’Amitie in Palm Beach, Florida, is a single-family residence on a 3-hectare lot fronting 145 metres of Atlantic Ocean. It now faces the wrecking ball. Photo: Steve Mitchell

The Town of Palm Beach Architectural Commission approved the demolition last month, two years after a Swiss court ruled that Russian oligarch Dmitri Rybolovlev needed to pay his ex-wife, Elena, US$4.5 billion as part of the priciest divorce in history.

Elena had also claimed her share of the couple’s US$88 million New York apartment and US$20 million home in Hawaii bought from actor Will Smith. And that still leaves a US$300 million penthouse in Monaco, and a US$156 million purchase of two Greek islands that used to be owned by Aristotle Onassis.

It’s good to be a Russian oligarch.

515 N. County Road, Palm Beach, Florida.

Rybolovlev’s company bought the Palm Beach home from Trump in 2008 after Trump bought it four years earlier from a bankrupt Abe Gosman, the health-care-industry tycoon and local philanthropist whose fortune evaporated at the turn of the century.

Trump, taking advantage of a distressed buyer, bought the home for US$41.4 million in 2004, made a US$25 million renovation as part of his reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” then sold the home to the Russian billionaire for a hefty profit.

The property has had a long history of notable owners. The first resident in 1917 was Robert Dun Douglass, a member of the New Jersey family that founded Dun & Broadstreet. Standard Oil’s Charles Wrightsman lived there, too, and hosted President John F. Kennedy there.

Leslie Wexner, the head of the retail Limited Brands Inc., bought the home in the 1980s, but didn’t last long because Palm Beach wouldn’t approve a Limited store on Worth Avenue.

Gosman was the owner who built the current main house and named it Maison de L’Amitie, which is House of Friendship in French.

The Russian fertiliser billionaire, his wife and two children didn’t even live there. It was basically just another acquisition. A big empty house facing more than a football field’s length of Atlantic Ocean lapping the shoreline for nobody.

And now it will likely be chopped up and sold in pieces to accommodate smaller mansions for people who will probably also live somewhere else most of the time.

I find myself, though, wondering not about those people, but about the ones who sometimes come ashore in Palm Beach in the dead of night, the ones who risk their lives in rickety boats to escape appalling poverty.

If, by chance, they wash up at Maison de L’Amitie, how will they process seeing a spectacular palace, one beyond their wildest imagination, being turned into rubble on purpose, because somehow, it’s not good enough?



Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post.