Bud Kennedy

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago traces to Marjorie Post, and Fort Worth

Mar-a-Lago was built by heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who lived in Fort Worth as a child.
Mar-a-Lago was built by heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who lived in Fort Worth as a child. The Associated Press

President-elect Donald J. Trump does not have many connections to Texas, at least not below the oligarch level.

But he has one direct connection to Fort Worth. Of course, it involves wealth.

A little girl who once lived near today’s Bass Hall inherited a fortune and built what is now Trump’s Florida home.

In 1887, Marjorie Merriweather Post, now known as the heiress who built Post cereals into the General Foods empire, moved here as a newborn with parents C.W. and Ella Post and their extended family.

By age 4, C.W. Post’s land investments were struggling and the family moved to Michigan,

According to the 1888-89 city directory, the Posts lived at 300 E. Fourth St., now the site of McDavid Studio. (Some sources also mention a ranch in what is today Forest Park.)

Post was trying to lure friends from Illinois to invest in what is now the Riverside neighborhood due east of downtown. (He later had a hand in developing a woolen mill near Sycamore Park, and the Sangamo Park homes in Mistletoe Heights.)

It was a time of growth in Fort Worth, when the Texas Spring Palace celebrated the crops and boosted land sales. In 1887, Post told the Illinois State Journal: “The rush is tremendous … The hotels are first class. One [the Touraine] has a full complement of French cooks and French waiters.”

In a 1987 article, Texas Monthly’s Jan Reid traced the nerve-wracked Post’s failure: “He promised parks, trolleys, and a boiler-generated electrical power system of his own design, which never panned out. He hawked business stationery made from cottonseed hulls, and he invented suspenders that adjusted to a man’s twists and turns through the use of small pulleys. The mental overload and meager profits from all those schemes drove him bonkers again.”

In American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post, biographer Nancy Rubin writes that Marjorie was a “resoundingly healthy child” in Texas.

But other than for an occasional visit to grandparents and cousins, Marjorie Post was rarely mentioned again as a former resident of Fort Worth.

After she visited grandmother Carrie Post in March 1894, Carrie described Majorie as a “bright, winsome … little creature.” (Her grandparents remained in Fort Worth the rest of their lives, but were buried back home in Illinois.)

The family wasn’t done with Texas: C.W. bought a West Texas ranch and developed the city of Post.

Former Star-Telegram columnist Mike Nichols has told more about C.W. Post’s death from mental illness and the Posts cereals legacy on his excellent local history website, hometownbyhandlebar.com.

Eventually, a young Marjorie Post inherited the company and went on to reshape the food industry while marrying and divorcing four husbands, including financier E.F. Hutton.

She and Hutton built the now-110,000-square-foot Mar-a-Lago. Upon her death in 1973, she left it to the federal government as a “winter White House,” but it was too lavish for federal maintenance.

It was nothing like the first home where little baby Marjorie Post lived, in a Fort Worth where the limestone dust had barely settled from the last Calhoun Street cattle drive.

Now, her resort home is President-elect Trump’s.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.