Should the Four Seasons Total Landscaping be added to the National Register of Historic Places?
More than 2,000 people apparently think so, because they’ve signed a petition recommending that the landscaping company’s home in northeast Philadelphia be recognized for the brief but significant role it played in the 2020 presidential election.
“We as a nation need to remember where the travesty of the Trump administration died with a whimper,” reads the change.org petition, which is headed “Add Four Seasons Total Landscaping to the national register of historic places.”
“I’m here for this. I haven’t been this jazzed about a nomination since the Longaberger basket,” Lauren Manning, a preservation planner in Kansas City, wrote on Facebook.
“This is a truly historic location,” agrees petition signer James Cole, from South Bend, Indiana. “What better mark of pure American charlatanism than this could there be?”
The property, at 7347 State Road in northeast Philadelphia, is where President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, held a late-morning news conference on November 7, at the same hour major media outlets declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Giuliani wanted to challenge the vote-counting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, whose 20 votes in the Electoral College got Biden to the 270 total he needed to be named president-elect.
Trump, who was golfing in Virginia, originally had tweeted that morning to announce a “Lawyers News Conference Four Seasons Philadelphia. 11:00 a.m.,” leading many to think he meant the upscale hotel in Center City Philadelphia. Trump later sent out a second tweet clarifying that he meant Four Seasons Total Landscaping and journalists from around the world descended on the site, including crews from Japan, Germany, and Great Britain.
What they found was a non-descript industrial building next to the Fantasy Island adult book store and across the street from the Delaware Valley Cremation Center. Located off Interstate 95, the company is an independent garden center that sells mulch, weed killer, and other lawn care supplies, and provides landscaping services for others, including the Philadelphia International Airport.
The Trump campaign had set up a lectern with a red and white Trump 2020 sign in its back parking lot, but the ambiance was less than presidential.
Just before Giuliani got to speak, the major TV networks declared Biden the winner in Pennsylvania and thus the nation, prompting many of the journalists to rush off to file stories about that.
For those who remained, Giuliani played down the significance of “all the networks” in calling the election and proceeded to claim that dead people were voting in Philadelphia. His news conference was ultimately disrupted by shouting between Biden and Trump supporters who had gathered in the street and the sound of car horns honking in response to the news that the election had been called for Biden.
The bizarre event drew derision as the ultimate symbol of Trump’s failure to win a second term, including biting critiques of the site. Observers noted the seediness of the location next to a porn shop and called it the blue-collar equivalent of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, the less-than-upscale setting for clerical workers in The Office.
Some questioned whether Four Seasons Total Landscaping was a fallback after the luxury hotel sent out its own tweet saying that “President Trump’s press conference will NOT be held at the Four Seasons Hotel” and that the landscaping company has “no relation with the hotel.” Others suggested it was a clever choice because it sounded good and was in one of the few parts of Philadelphia that wouldn’t be completely hostile to Trump.
Corey Lewandowski, a Trump aide who was at the event (and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19), tweeted that the choice was intentional: “All great Americans in PA use Four Seasons Total Landscaping,” he wrote. “They love this country and are American Patriots. Thank you!”
The New York Times reported that the confusion was “not in the booking, but in a garbled game of telephone,” in which Trump was told the name of the landscaping company but mistakenly thought it was the hotel and tweeted the wrong location.
Hilarity ensued, and the event took on a life of its own. Four Seasons Total Landscaping has since garnered even more attention, as seen by the petition and other reactions in print and on social media.
Inspired by Giuliani’s venue, a charity group initially announced that it would hold an 11-mile race on November 29 called the Philly Fraud Street Run (voter fraud, get it?) that would start at the “famous Four Seasons Total Landscaping” and end at the “lesser-known Four Seasons Hotel.”
But the organizers—a college web developer and a comedian who have a podcast called Junk Miles with Chip & Jeff —had to make it a virtual race because there was so much interest and they needed to avoid large crowds due to COVID-19. “Too popular,” read one Philadelphia Inquirer headline. (Runners now are supposed to just run anywhere they want on November 28 or 29 and post photos online to prove it.)
A Reddit user came up with a mock Lego scale model of the scene, replacing the Trump 2020 sign on the lectern with LOSER 2020. Others generated a fake book jacket for a potential bestseller—“Between the Dildo Store and the Crematorium, A Memoir by Rudy Giuliani”—and a prototype for a ye olde historical marker, complete with proposed wording.
The company itself, a 28-year-old Woman-Owned Minority Business founded by president and CEO Marie Siravo, made the best of the attention, saying on social media that it wasn’t pro-Trump and would have been honored to host a news conference for any presidential candidate. “We strongly believe in America and in democracy,” the company said.
The day after the news conference, the company took advantage of its new prominence by introducing a line of T-shirts, hoodies, and stickers featuring the slogans “Lawn and Order” and “Make America Rake Again.” It also put up a photo of the parking lot on Twitter that can be used as a background for Zoom meetings.
The next day, Monday, the business added face masks to further bolster its pivot to apparel sales. By Tuesday, almost everything was sold out. “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received!” it posted on Facebook. “You all are amazing!”
What helps build a case for a National Register designation is the key role that both the event and the location played on the day the election was called.
According to the National Park Service, places can be added to the National Register because of architectural significance or historical significance, including association with noteworthy people or events.
“It’s so funny, and so just completely innocuous and random and silly, that it was kind of like a collective exhale,” Wendy Gordon, a Philadelphia native now living in Washington, D. C., and the purchaser of a Four Seasons Total Landscaping T-shirt, told NPR.
In reporting about the event, more than a few journalists identified Four Seasons Total Landscaping, with its gravel lot and yellow and green hoses on the wall, as the spot where the Trump presidency officially ended.
They said it certainly was total—the total opposite of the golden escalator in Manhattan that Trump rode down to announce that he was running for president. New York Magazine, now the parent company of Curbed, called it “the golden escalator of 2020.”
“The name itself is magnificently Trumpian, goosed by that meaningless, grandiose modifier, total, which suggests that the firm is in the business of dynamiting mountains or, on a different scale, will mow any patch of body hair its customers desire,” wrote architecture critic Justin Davidson.
But the “ramshackle, industrial-zone” setting is even more symbolic than the name, Davidson went on.
“The end of an administration marked by episodes of sordid sex, wishful thinking, and mass death took place next door to a dildo-and-porn store named Fantasy Island and across the street from a crematorium. If you were hunting for such a symbolically rich stage, how would you even Google it?”
“I cannot imagine a tidier visual metaphor for the collapse of Trump’s presidency,” Claire Lampen wrote for The Cut.
“I saw Donald Trump’s presidency come crashing down at Four Seasons Total Landscaping,” wrote Richard Hall for the Independent. The Independent supplemented Hall’s report with video clips showing a Trump impersonator dressed as Uncle Sam; a Trump supporter in his underwear mocking “Sleepy Joe” Biden, and a Biden supporter doing a backflip in the street.
Signers of the National Register petition have argued in comments that while the property may not stand out as particularly noteworthy architecture, the ties to Trump and the presidential campaign make it worthy of landmark listing. Some have even suggested that Four Seasons Total Landscaping, the porn shop and the crematorium together should be designated a National Register historic district.
And if Four Seasons Total Landscaping doesn’t make it to the National Register, there may be other forms of recognition. Support is building for the company’s owner to be named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Another option, suggested by late-night host James Corden: “I cannot imagine a better location for the future Donald Trump Presidential Library. “