Is Vanity Fair right to trash Mar-a-Lago’s architectural style?

In a recent online Vanity Fair article about the bucolic character of Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Trump is spending his 17-day vacation, the magazine took a swipe at Palm Beach.

Trump, cloistered in his private club in the town, hasn’t changed its quiet, horse-country flavor, said the writer.


“It isn’t faux cosmopolitan, like Trump Tower, or a poor man’s version of the Mediterranean, like Mar-a-Lago.”

Do ‘Mar-A-Lago’ and ‘poor’ belong in the same sentence?

I think I know what the writer meant. Bedminster seems authentic while Palm Beach and Mar-a-Lago, in particular, are concocted pastiches of various Mediterranean architectural styles.


Well, it’s true. After World War I, widely traveled architect Addison Mizner looked around at the resort colony’s New England shingle-style cottages and Newport-appropriate Beaux Arts mansions and created a new style of stucco, red-tile-roofed mansions that would be forever known as “the Palm Beach look.”

One critic famously called Mizner’s work the “Bastard-Spanish-Moorish-Romanesque-Gothic-Renaissance-Bull-Market-Damn-the-Expense Style.”


As for Mar-a-Lago, although it was initially designed by the versatile, conventionally-trained Marion Sims Wyeth, owner Marjorie Merriweather Post wanted a bit more pizzazz.

The richest woman in the country hired Viennese theater architece Joseph Urban, who designed sets for Flo Ziegfeld, to gild her lily with a theatrical river of gold leaf, ancient Portuguese tiles, carved wood doors and fanciful wrought iron.

So, go ahead and call Palm Beach and Mar-a-Lago beautiful fakes.

But using the word “poor” in association with anything in Palm Beach?


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