The spacious, columned house stands on a tree-lined hill in a wealthy Queens enclave: this is where Donald Trump spent his boisterous, sometimes troublesome childhood under a strict father who started him on his career in real estate.
The maverick Republican presidential candidate — currently locked in a tightening race with his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton — was born on June 14, 1946 in the then very white neighborhood of Jamaica Estates, an hour’s drive from Fifth Avenue, where he lives today ensconced by Versailles-style opulence in a penthouse triplex.
The fourth of five children, he grew up in a hard-working, sober family.
His mother, born Mary McLeod, emigrated from Scotland. His father, Fred Trump, embodied the American dream: born in New York to a German father who arrived by steamboat, he became a real estate entrepreneur who built middle-income housing for the postwar generation in Queens and Brooklyn.
“They stuck out in the neighborhood because they had chauffeurs,” remembers one of the few neighbors who still lives across the street and is willing to discuss the Trumps. He identified himself only as George.
“The father was a hard-working man,” he said.
“Lots of buildings over there,” he added, pointing toward the next block, “were built by him” as Fred was “instrumental in developing (Jamaica Estates) into a real neighborhood.”
The billionaire now running on an anti-establishment ticket moved into these plush surroundings as a four-year-old. A chauffeur ferried the young Donald from the 23-room house to private school in neighboring Forest Hills.
“Donny” quickly acquired a reputation as a scrapper with the same instincts that have prompted his thin-skinned responses to critics on the campaign trail six decades later.
In his book “The Art of the Deal,” he describes punching his second-grade music teacher, giving him a black eye. The initials DT became synonymous with punishment, according to the biography “Trump Revealed.”
But his father kept him on a tight leash, initiating Donald early into the world of real estate, taking him on his construction site rounds from a young age and nurturing his competitive spirit.
– ‘Get me in line’ –
“Invariably, my father would finish his buildings three or four months before his competitors did,” Trump has said.
“Eventually, one or both of his competitors would go bankrupt before they’d finish the buildings and my father would step in and buy them out.”
Trump often speaks of his mother in loving terms. In June 1953, mother and son spent hours together watching the televised coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
“I got some of my sense of showmanship from my mother,” he said of his penchant for performance that enabled the success of his reality TV show “The Apprentice” before he turned to the theater of presidential campaigning.
As a young teenager, Trump made secret forays into Manhattan. Upon finding out, Fred packed the 13-year-old off for disciplining at a military boarding school in upstate New York not far from the West Point military academy.
“They wanted to get me in line,” Trump would later say.
He spent five years at the school, coming of age in the deeply male, hierarchical environment dominated by the machismo Trump’s detractors loathe today.
But the school taught Trump to channel his aggression, he said. He excelled at sports, especially baseball, and earned his stripes.
He graduated with the rank of captain in the cadets and the nickname “ladies’ man.”
One of his contemporaries later told Business Insider that during the school’s annual parade down Fifth Avenue on Columbus Day, he overheard Trump say “I’d really like to get some of this real estate someday.”
After school, he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Finance before leapfrogging into the high-stakes world of Manhattan real estate his frugal father had always avoided.