More than once during my tenure as a politician, I voted to deed public property to private parties for $1.00. That is the minimum allowed by law to secure a financial transaction in my community. Much of the time, what was awarded was a corner lot, too small to build on, which the adjoining neighbor took off our hands, saving the county the cost of mowing the grass regularly. Sometimes, we sold a derelict house for the same princely sum. By doing so, we saved on the cost for fire and liability insurance, which could rise as the property became more derelict.
Governments aren’t in the business of managing real estate, which explains why it’s difficult to deed valuable property to them. In 1980, Jimmy Carter returned a $5 million dollar house, a gift from the Post family, back to their foundation. The upkeep on a 115 room house was too costly. Donald Trump bought it. then converted the estate into a private club where members paid hefty fees to belong. (“How to Donate Your House,” by Kyle Chayka, Town&Country, Nov. 2016, pgs. 174-175.)
The home of world renowned architect Michael Graves almost met a similar fate. Awarded to Princeton University at the time of his death, the University refused to accept the bequest. Eventually, the deed went to Kean University because the Dean of the School of Architecture managed to raise several million dollars for a maintenance fund. (Ibid pg. 175.)
Museum houses like the Post’s or Michael Graves’ become expensive when they are converted to public use. Installing proper heating and cooling systems, updating security systems, and the increased insurance costs make these mansions too rich for governments unless they come with an attendant endowment, somewhere between $1 million – $4 million dollars and upwards, depending on the property. (Ibid pg. 175) For lack of an endowment, a 9.5 million house was razed.
In the 21st Century, we destroy palaces while the poor take shelter on the streets. Such a contradiction dazzles the mind. So much wealth lies in the hands of a few while much of the world suffers from poverty. Forgive me, but I see no divine plan in absurdities such as this one.