The History of President Trump’s Summer White House

The Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey now known as President Trump’s Summer White House occupies 535 acres of rambling countryside in central New Jersey, 45 minutes away from New York City. Most of the property was once the private estate of John DeLorean, the auto industry playboy whose stainless-steel car is remembered best in its role as a time machine in Back to the Future. Trump purchased the property in 2002 for about $35 million, and it opened as a golf club in 2004. The home, once known as Lamington House has a new name, the Summer White House.

Brief History of Bedminster Township, New Jersey

Nestled behind New Jersey’s second Watchung Mountain,  the town of Bedminster was chartered by King George II in 1749. Neighbored by Bridgewater to the South and Bernards Township to the East, Bedminster early settlers were mostly Dutch, migrating mostly from New Amsterdam to seek their fortunes. Migration increased after the British took over New Amsterdam moving from present day Brooklyn and Queens.

Settling along the banks of the North Branch of the Raritan River, the area was slow to develop. Bedminster is noted as a mecca for equestrians as the Unites States Equestrian Foundation facility is just north in Peapack. Bedminster is also noted as being one of the most densely populated areas for horses in the United States. Rich in revolutionary war history, the hamlet of Pluckemin in Bedminster was home to America’s first military Academy during the Revolutionary War winter of 1778-1779 under the command of General Henry Knox. It was known as the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment. Knox stayed in what is known as the Jacobus Vanderveer House, a restored home and farm just to the west of the academy site.  It is also noted that the famous spy, John Honeyman, one of George Washington’s greatest war spies resided in Bedminster as well.  Honeyman is buried in the nearby Lamington Church cemetery.

Packed stone and dirt roads allow for equestrian activities to continue today. A complex horse bridal path system still exists today. And not to forget, one of the most important institutions came to Bedminster with the Essex Hunt Club, home to the Fox Hounds, one of the most prestigious clubs in the country.

For almost a century the population of Bedminster held around 1,700 residents.  One of the largest planned developments in New Jersey, the Hills and The Hills Development changed Bedminster forever. Dating back to 1969 when the descendants of Grant Schley (American Express) sold Schley Mountain for $2.2 million. In the mid 1990’s Johns-Manville had sold its 50 percent share to William E. Simon and Sons. This group, in turn, auctioned off huge parcels to major home builders like K. Hovnanian, Gale Wentworth & Dillon, Pulte Homes, Matzel & Munford, Toll Brothers and several others. Today, it’s a mix of residents ranging from post college to retirees, including 600 low and moderate income residences.  After the completion of the Bedminster portion of the hills, the Bedminster population grew to over 8,000.

The Lamington Farm Estate

Just south of the Lamington section of Bedminster Township lies one of the finest pieces of real estate in Bedminster dating back to the 1600’s. The Duyckinck family, a Dutch farming family, lived on the Lamington Farm property through the early 1900’s,  living in  what was know as the “Old  Dutch House”. The  family made cider with their own presses from apples from their orchard. They raised cattle and sheep. Legend has it there’s a ghost in the house.  John Duyckinck, possibly a  British sympathizer was confined to live within the boundaries of the property  after  being jailed and  exiled by General George  Washington in 1779. The Continental Army’s artillery was stationed in Bedminster, in the Pluckemin Village section of Bedminster during the winter of 1778-1779 under the leadership of General Henry Knox.It is still unclear if Duyckinck was a Revolutionary War hero, or a British spy, but past  residents claim to  have heard the sounds of a man in riding boots echoing in the stairwells.

Image: 1921 map highlighting the Duyckinck property and residences.

Cowperthwaithe Family – Lamington House (#summerwhitehouse)

In 1917, the  property  was purchased by  the Morgan Cowperthwaite family. The original house was designed by New York architect James Cameron Mackenzie who had previously designed the Gambrill estate in Peapack. In 1939, architect Mott B. Schmidt of New York City was commissioned by John K. Cowperthwaite,  Morgan’s  son, to build the Cowperthwaite residence. Schmidt  was  an architect  who also constructed Gracie Mansion’s Susan B. Wagner wing, Sutton  Place and homes  for the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. The Cowperthwaithe’s called it Lamington House.

Above Image: The Lamington House was built in 1939 on the same site as the original Duyckinck house. The home was designed by renowned architect Mott B.Schmidt. President Trump’s Summer White House actually looked like the White House in 1939.
Photo Credit: The Somerset Hills Volume 2

The original White House in Washington DC North Portico- 1890 – Credit: Library of Congress 

 

Image: 1935 map showing the Cowperthwaite property along with the neighboring Black Cemetery.

The Bedminster area is part of what’s known as the Somerset Hills and had become a popular equestrian and hunting area in the late 1800s. As fox  hunting grew,  Charles Pfizer moved the historic Essex Hunt Club from Montclair, New Jersey to Peapack, New Jersey. Trails were integrated into the Hamilton Far and Lamington Farms properties. The family also raised cattle on the estate, noted as being some of the finest in the area.

John DeLorean

Jock Cowperthwaite maintained the  estate until John DeLorean purchased it in 1981. John DeLorean bought  what was then 433 acres along with the Georgian-style red brick manor house for $3.5 million. DeLorean and his former wife, model/actress Cristina Ferrare lived there for 19 years.

In 1978 DeLorean left General Motors to start the DeLorean Motor Company. where he built his dream car, the DMC-12, made famous in Stephen Spielberg’s 1985 movie Back to the Future. With a $25,000 price tag, the car didn’t sell well. The car was cult phenom.

John DeLorean and his DMC-12 car. Photo Credit: The Detroit Bureau

Then on October 19, 1982, John Z. DeLorean was arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine. What most people don’t remember is that DeLorean was acquitted of the drug charges in August 1984 stating that DeLorean was entrapped by the FBI. It was the company’s financial trouble that made DeLorean an easy drug target for the FBI’s $24 million drug deal. Investments up to $175 million basically tanked the company due to modest reviews of the car.

In 1999, DeLorean declared bankruptcy and put his Bedminster estate up for sale. Rumor had it that before the FBI came to seize DeLorean’s property he burried all over his property.  When Trump’s Golf Club property was being excavated, nothing turned up. But it still remains a local rumor.

While living in the house rumor had it that Delorean’s adopted son Zachery,  having a father that designed the Chevrolet Firebird ,Vega, the Pontiac Grand Prix, and GTO didn’t seem to phase him. On the other hand it seemed to embolden him. Rumor has it that while father John returned from a business trip he ventured upstairs to see his son. After knocking on the door he entered the teens room only to find a full sized poster of a Ford Mustang on his wall. A blasphemous act, John had a working relationship with Lee Iacocca, the Ford mustang designer. But as parents know, you just need to know what fights to defend. The door shut and the poster stayed.

Donald Trump

By 2000, DeLorean’s estate expanded to 506-acres. On the western side lies Cowperthwaite Road, named after the second property owners, the Cowperthwaite family.  Trump bought the property from National Fairways in 2000, a minority partner of Lamington Farm Club LLC (now Trump National Golf Club), a Connecticut-based golf course developer that had acquired it at a bankruptcy auction in early 2000. Bedminster Township in August 2001 approved Donald Trump’s property for use as a golf course and country club.

Credit:  The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills – Donald Trump at Trump National in Bedminster

The red brick Lamington House became Trump National’s clubhouse and 11 single-family cottages were planned for extensive renovations around a planned pool and bistro complex. The Tom Fazio designed golf course was opened in 2004. Located a short distance from the clubhouse in  a separate “village”, there’s a 25-yard long  swimming pool, hot tubs,spa and fitness center, tennis courts, paddle tennis,basketball court, equestrian riding trails and of course, a heliport. Located next to  the clubhouse and across from the pro shop, ” locker area was located and is now the ladies’ locker room; the men’s locker room having been relocated above the golf pro shop. The golf shop was DeLorean’s former garage. In 2007, permits and plans were submitted to the Bedminster Land Use Board for a cemetery on the property just off the 1st hole on the golf course along with 10 family plots. The permit was approved via Resolution 2013-16.

In 2006, struggles over planning and “gray water” issues led to the hiring of Edward Russo, the former Bedminster Planning Board Chairman. Russo worked diligently as a consultant and acted as an environmental consultant for the Trump project in Bedmnister.  News articles have labeled him “Trumps Environmental Evangelist”. Russo was hired by National Fairways in 2000 and Trump continued his consultancy until this day.

Summer White House Neighbors

Former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, ex-presidential candidate Stephen Forbes have been neighbors in the surrounding Bedminster area near the Trump National Golf Club. Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, while not a direct neighbor, lives in the neighborhood.

Image: The Lamington Black Cemetery-just off the Summer White House grounds.

What many people don’t know is that there is a black cemetery adjoining the property just off  Cowperthwaithe Road on the western side.  Back in the early days of the Trump Development, Cowperthwaithe Road was public road that cut through the middle of the property. There were many times when people would drive their cars past the cemetery onto a dirt path leading to River Road at the end. Arguments were made by Trump to close the public road. Today Lamington Farm Club LLC (aka Trump National owns the road so it is no longer a public cross road.  Conditions of Approval required that the now private road be kept open and available for public access.

The Summer White House

BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – NOVEMBER 20: (L to R) President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with T.W. Shannon, former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The summer of 2017 is President Trump’s first year at what is being referred to as “The Summer White House“. While President Trump has had numerous visits to his Bedminster estate, Aug 5-17, 2017  was designated his first “summer working vacation. Based on news reporting, what has commonly be noted as a “Second White House”. Based on all reporting, what was once named Lamington house is now unofficially named the “Summer White House” of the 45th President of the United States.

The #summerwhitehouse is a relatively new term. Presidential summer residences have significant interest and add to local history. George H. Bush, President 41 had his Kennebunkport, Maine summer White House which put the sleepy Maine town on the global stage. Today people still stop near the compound and take photos. George W. Bush had his summer White House in Texas and John F. Kennedy had his Hyannis, Massachusetts compound as well.

The Bedminster Summer White House is not New Jersey’s first Summer White House. New Jersey’s own Woodrow Wilson had his 1916 summer White House in Long Branch, New Jersey. The Shadow Lawn mansion, built in 1929 is now Wilson Hall and the centerpiece of Monmouth University. Joseph B. Greenhut, the head of Siegel, Cooper Co., a New York department store. Greenhut loaned the mansion to President Woodrow Wilson during the campaign of 1916 as the presidential summer home. Thereafter it was known as the Summer White House.

Additional Information

About the Author

Brooks Betz is a resident of Basking Ridge and enjoys researching local history and posting to the internet for others to learn. He is also an active member of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills and contributes digital content. Visit www.THSSH.org to learn more about the history of the area.