Fresh start: The Kluges’ palace, Albemarle House, welcomes the public

Photo: Jack Looney Photo: Jack Looney

Talk about a house being great for entertaining. When opulent Albemarle House was built in the early 1980s by Patricia Kluge and her then-husband, media mogul John Kluge, they aimed to create a mansion fit to welcome royals and celebrities.

As fate and fortune would have it, 30 years later, the 45-room home has become a boutique hotel of 10 guest rooms. The story of the Kluges’ divorce, Patricia’s enormous settlement, her remarriage to William Moses and the rise and fall of her winery business has been well-documented in the media—particularly the end of the tale, in which Donald Trump became the new owner of the entire estate.

That was in 2012, when Trump paid $6.5 million for Albemarle House. That sounds like a chunk of change until you consider that Kluge had originally put the place on the market for $100 million—or, to throw out another number, that the Trump folks have since poured $20 million into its restoration.

The home, designed in a strictly traditional neo-Georgian style by architect David Easton, demanded top-flight treatment despite its compromised position. “The house had been vacant for two or three years,” says Kerry Woolard, general manager of Trump Winery. “It was a wreck.”

Silk damask wall coverings had been damaged. Elaborately carved plaster ceilings had collapsed. Custom wallpapers and intricately detailed woodwork were beyond repair.

So, while the property’s new stewards didn’t need to rethink floor plans in order to make the conversion from private residence to hotel, they had to restore many highly crafted surfaces. In some cases, the original creators, who’d worked on the place in the ’80s, were part of the process. “We’re super fortunate that many of the artisans still live in the area,” says Woolard. “The carpenter still had some of the dies” needed to replace damaged woodwork.

Some of what the Kluges had installed was salvageable and now lends not only an air of luxury, but a whiff of—could it be?—history. In the dining room, where hotel guests now eat breakfast, hospitality manager Derek Hunt points out wallpaper that was designed in Paris and made in India, and remarks that Patricia Kluge made multiple visits to India to check on its fabrication.

Guests will find no shortage of sumptuous details. One can play billiards in the library, done up in English oak and filled with books of an appropriate vintage. The marble-floored gallery features a burbling indoor fountain and presidential busts in curved wall niches. Intricate crown moldings, marble columns and gilded mirrors festoon every surface, and windows frame views of statuary outside in the formal terraced gardens.

Luxuries originally installed by the Kluges (like the heated outdoor pool) rub shoulders with newer additions: Patricia’s former office is now, with the addition of rubber flooring and full-length mirrors, a fitness center.

The ultimate prize, though, are the views: hundreds of acres of vineyards and rolling lawn. Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery, as it’s now known, began receiving guests in May.

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