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Nixon checked out Mar-a-Lago to be southern Camp David when U.S. owned the property

Before it became a private club owned by former President Donald Trump, the famed and staggeringly opulent Mar-a-Lago estate decades ago was briefly in possession of the U.S. government when another U.S. president vowed, “I am not a crook,” during a politically tumultuous time.

It will be 50 years ago this summer since the late President Richard Nixon in 1974 toured a then-shuttered Mar-a-Lago, a 17-acre showpiece that been willed to the government by its longtime original owner upon her death.

That would be cereal-fortune heiress, businesswoman and hostess extraordinaire Marjorie Merriweather Post, who for decades presided over Mar-a-Lago and social affairs there that ranged from soirees with Broadway casts to luncheons with royal dignitaries and old-fashioned square dances locals of a certain age still remember fondly.

So in July of 1974, what was Nixon, who was embroiled in the Watergate scandal, doing at Mar-a-Lago? After all, just a month later, he resigned from office.

First, Nixon visiting Palm Beach was hardly unusual then — and not because his ranch-style vacation home was nearby in Key Biscayne in Miami.

Though he was said to be ill at ease socially, Nixon for years had come to Palm Beach to visit good friends as society photographers in the 1950s and ‘60s captured him at the Everglades and Beach clubs, The Breakers and elsewhere in a town that had what he loved: golf, warm weather and “lots of Republicans,” as Palm Beach Daily News society editor Shannon Donnelly once noted.

Nixon (center) in Palm Beach with Edgar Gerbisch (left) and Gene Tunney.

After Nixon championed late Palm Beach resident Claude Kirk’s successful bid for Florida governor in 1966, he attended Kirk’s Palm Beach wedding in 1967 at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church (Kirk married Erika Mattfield)

President Nixon and his wife visited Palm Beach several times

Among other things, Nixon and his wife, Pat, were guests many times at the Palm Beach home of close friends, the late Mahmouda (Bobo) and Elmer Bobst (she was a United Nations delegate, public health advocate and philanthropist; he, a close friend of Nixon’s, was chairman of Pharma giant Warner-Lambert).

The Nixons’ visits were frequent enough that the Bobsts reportedly built an addition to accommodate them and their Secret Service detail.

A handful of lots south stood the Kennedy compound, winter refuge of President John F. Kennedy, who defeated Nixon in the 1960 presidential race.

So by 1974, Nixon was no stranger to Palm Beach.

But he’d certainly never been a personal house guest of Post’s at Mar-a-Lago, a palatial Mediterranean/Moorish fantasy mansion — called a “Xanadu” by national press — complete with dozens of bedrooms, frescoes, gold-plated fixtures, 15th century Spanish tiles and an 1,800-square-foot living room with a 43-foot ceiling.

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