Most people around the world know of the enigma that is Donald Trump, especially following his recent bid for the presidency and the controversies that have followed. Trump is known for many things, most of them surrounding his life of luxury and power, but he didn’t start out that way, a new story shows.
Out in Queens, about 15 miles away from the impressive Trump headquarters on Fifth Avenue, there is another building named after Trump. However, it’s not named after Donald Trump — it’s named for his father, Fred. Rather than being a huge skyscraper in Manhattan, it’s a small two-story home.
Donald Trump didn’t start out as the controversial, power-hungry man he is today. His foundation started in Queens, where his father built the first of many homes. Fred Trump led a simple life, on quiet streets, running a modest business — completely unlike the business of his son.
“Really? I feel like I won the lottery or something,” said Hazel Thomas after learning that the home she has owned since 2002 was built by Trump. However, just a second later, remembering the controversy surrounding Donald, she hesitated. “I’m aware of some of his views,” she said. Thomas is a registered dietitian and immigrant from Trinidad. “Some of them are really far-out views…I’m a registered Democrat.”
She did add, however, that the home Donald’s father built was incredibly beautiful, and that she was still proud to call it her home.
Over 70 years, and through building many houses and high-rises, Fred Trump became known as a great developer in Brooklyn and Queens. The first home that he built — two years out of high school — was located in Woodhaven, Queens. He went on to build in Queens Village, before finally deciding to stick with Hollis, Queens in 1926. Back then, Hollis was an emerging neighborhood, where Trump could really make his mark. Because he was so young, he went into business with his mother to form E. Trump and Son.
After placing several ads in newspapers, E. Trump and Son began to take off.
“Located in the very best section of Hollis only 5 minutes from the station, having every city convenience, including sewers, concrete street and sidewalks,” read one of the advertisements.
The original price of the homes was $9,950, but Trump sold some for as little as $3,990. This is a stark contrast to homes built today — where custom home buyers are spending over $1 million on a home. Brooklyn’s William Socolow bought one of the six homes Trump had built on 198th Street in July 1926, the same home that’s now owned by Thomas, over 80 years later. Trump houses all had the same features, and were built well, with beautiful floor plans.
“It was a nice house to grow up in. Not a mansion, but a nice home,” said Adrienne Wollenberg, one of Socolow’s daughters. “It stood us well through the years.”
“From what I’ve heard, he was someone who was a people’s person, someone who was empowering and uplifting middle-class people,” Ms. Robinson-Turner, a university health care administrator, said of the Fred Trump.
“I hope he’ll remember the legacy of his father,” she added, of Donald.
No one is quite sure where the first Woodhaven house stands anymore, because no one was keeping track of it.
“He was well known around here, but it’s kind of like, who knew that was going to be important?” Ed Wendell, the president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, said.
At a supermarket Fred built during the Great Depression, there is now a plaque in his honor, reading, “Began building at 15, built this store, founded E. Trump and Son now Trump Organization, Father of ‘The Donald.’ ”
Since the days of Fred Trump’s business, his son has built a multibillion dollar empire, following in the footsteps of his father. He now has his eyes set on the United States presidency, despite numerous controversies and scandals in recent years.