Written by Mike Slatton, Barrista & Concierge for BTGH
Donald Trump made his money in Real Estate.
Sure, Don made most of his money in Real Estate, but he is by NO MEANS a self-made billionaire. The truth is that it takes generations to create the kind of wealth he has.
Donald got lots of help. The Trump family dynasty actually started with Don’s grandpa, and it’s a little… uh… shady, to say the least.
The ORIGINAL Trump – Frederick Trump – was actually born Friedrich Drumpf, in Germany in 1869. He made his first fortune operating boom-town hotels, restaurants and brothels in the Northwestern United States. Yeah – brothels.
Drumpf was born along the German Wine Route in the old Bavarian town of Kallstadt, where his family worked in a vineyard. They were fruit pickers.
Ok – they were grape pickers, but grapes are fruit, so…
Drumpf emigrated to New York City in 1885 and worked as a barber for six years. In 1891, he moved to Seattle, Washington, and established a “decadent” restaurant (likely to have also been a brothel) known as “The Poodle Dog” (You know Poodles are actually German, right?). It was around this time that Friedrich Drumpf changed (or anglicized) his name to Frederick Trump, and became a naturalized United States citizen.
In 1894, Trump operated a hotel in the mining town of Monte Cristo, Washington. In July 1897 after hearing of the Klondike Gold Rush, he ran another restaurant for arriving prospectors, then in April 1898 moved to Bennett, British Columbia, running the Arctic Restaurant and Hotel, which offered fine dining and lodging in a sea of tents. The Arctic was originally housed in a tent itself, but demand for the hotel and restaurant grew until it occupied a two-story building.
“For single men, the Arctic has excellent accommodations as well as the best restaurant in Bennett, but I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep, as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings – and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex“, Trump wrote in a letter to the Yukon Sun newspaper.
The Arctic House was one of the largest and most decadent restaurants in that region of the Klondike, offering fresh fruit and ptarmigan in addition to the staple of horsemeat (You know – meat from HORSES.).
In 1900, the 150-mile-long railroad White Pass and Yukon Route between Bennett and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory of Canada was completed, allowing Trump to establish the White Horse Restaurant and Inn in Whitehorse, Yukon. His business interests catered to the “deprived,” and shared space with opium dens and brothels.
In 1901, fearing a crackdown on prostitution and drug dealing (and sensing the end of the gold rush), Trump sold his investments and returned to Kallstadt to impress his niece (his father’s brother’s daughter), Elizabeth Christ, and ask her hand in marriage.
Yeah – Fred married his niece. It’s called an avunculate marriage, and it’s ok in a lot of places.
However, she was still a blood relative.
German authorities determined that Trump had emigrated from Germany to avoid his tax and military-service obligations (WHAT!!?! NO!), and he and his pregnant wife were consequently expelled from the country. With no place really to go, Trump returned to the EASTERN coast of United States and worked as a barber and restaurant manager in Queens, New York where his sons Fred and John were born in 1905 and 1907.
When Frederick Trump died of pneumonia during the 1918 flu pandemic, he was just beginning to invest in real estate development in Queens. His wife and his son Fred, Jr. would continue his real estate projects under the Elizabeth Trump & Son moniker.
In 1927, with his mom holding his hand, 22 year old Fred Trump, Jr. went into the real estate development and construction business. His mom wrote all the checks.
In the late 1920s, Trump began building single-family houses in Queens, which were sold for $3,990 each. By the mid-1930s in the middle of the Great Depression, he helped pioneer the concept of supermarkets with the Trump Market in Woodhaven, Queens which advertised “Serve Yourself and Save!“, becoming an instant hit. After only a year Trump sold it for a tidy profit to the King Kullen supermarket chain. King Kullen continues to operate in the Suffolk County area today.
During World War II, Trump built barracks and garden apartments for U.S. Navy personnel near major shipyards along the East Coast, including Chester, Pennsylvania, Newport News, Virginia, and Norfolk, Virginia. After the war he expanded into middle-income housing for the families of returning veterans, building Shore Haven in Bensonhurst in 1949, and Beach Haven near Coney Island in 1950 (a total of 2,700 apartments). In 1963 he built the 3,800-apartment Trump Village in Coney Island, competing with Lefrak City in Queens.
Trump went on to build and operate affordable rental housing via large apartment complexes in New York City, including more than 27,000 low-income multifamily apartments and row houses in the neighborhoods of Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush, and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, and Flushing and Jamaica Estates in Queens. In 1968 his 22-year-old son Donald Trump joined his company Trump Management Co., becoming president in 1974, and renaming it The Trump Organization in 1980.
In the mid-1970s Fred lent his son Donald some money to allow him to go into the real estate business in Manhattan, while Fred stuck to Brooklyn and Queens.
“It was good for me,“ Donald Trump once commented. “You know, being the son of somebody, it could have been competition to me. This way, I got Manhattan all to myself.“
Although a self-made millionaire, Fred Trump was known for his frugality, saving unused nails, doing his own extermination work and mixing his own floor cleaners. Nevertheless, he insisted on buying a new navy blue Cadillac every three years, with license plate “FCT“. By the time of his death, Trump was estimated to have amassed a fortune worth $250 to $300 million.
Not a bad start for “The Donald“.