April 14, 2011 -- Donald Trump's aspirations to live in the White House may come true, even if he bombs in the 2012 election. The billionaire GOP presidential hopeful has been cordially invited to live behind the pearly white columns of America's most recognized residence… in Virginia.
Just a few miles outside the beltway in McLean, Virginia, a scaled-down replica of the White House went up for sale this week, and realtor Chu Nguyen said Trump would be the perfect buyer.
"Maybe he can move in here before he moves into the real White House in 2012," Nguyen said. "That would be good, don't you think?"
Nguyen said he tried to contact Trump about the listing, but received no response. He also offered it as the Republican Party headquarters, but the GOP wasn't biting either.
The 12,000 square foot White House replica is scaled-down from the original's 40,000, but includes the iconic Truman Balcony, Lincoln dining room, and Oval Office. The asking price for this presidential mansion is $4.65 million.
While the exterior bears a striking resemblance to the real thing, the interior has a few goodies not found at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A climate-controlled wine cellar, a party room for 100 and a private movie theater make this house more of an elite getaway than a diplomatic meeting place.
The owner "did not want to build just a big house, he wanted to build a house with character," Nguyen said.
The house was built for a New Zealand-educated Vietnamese engineer who immigrated to America after earning his PhD. The Vietnam War was still being fought at the time and it was politically unsafe for him to return to his home country, Nguyen said. The owner asked not to be named to maintain his privacy.
"He wanted to pay tribute to American history and culture. He wanted to pay tribute to his adoptive country. That's his main motive," Nguyen said.
It took seven years to create the replica house, two years for historical architect Robert Burns to scale down the blueprints of the original White House, three years to build and an additional two years after the family moved in to finish the detailing work. Nguyen said everything in the house is custom-made and every window frame is decorated with the same ornamentation of the real White House. It sits on 1.6 acres, with enough room for a helicopter to land in the yard, Nguyen said.
After a decade living in the Virginia White House, the owners are looking to downsize. Their children and extended family have all moved out and now only the owner and his wife, both approaching retirement age, live in the mansion.
'White House' For Sale. No, Not That One
"It's not easy for him to sell, but now he feels isolation. The house is too big for them. Most of the time it is dark," said Nguyen, who has been friends with the couple for decades.
The Virginia White House is not the only replica in America. Custom home builder Fred Milani, an Iranian immigrant, created a 16,500-square-foot version for himself in Atlanta. Milani's stepson, Azizi Penny, said he built the house for his wife, who wanted a large home with columns.
"He loves the freedom here and it was something that also his wife wanted. It was an accident," Penny said.
The similarities between the Atlanta house and the real White House end at the front door.
"It's not a replica of the White House on the inside. It's a mansion. It's a getaway. It's Persian rugs everywhere. It's beautiful inside," Penny said.
The Atlanta house was also put on the market, back in 2009, but never sold.