Since we’ve been to DC several times, we went and explored some of the lesser-known tourist destinations on this most recent trip. One of those was Hillwood Estate, the museum/estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post.
Marjorie Post was the heiress of the Post Cereals fortune, and she bought this estate in the 1950s to serve as her shoulder season residence, and as a museum for her enormous collection of Russian Imperialist art. When she died, she left an endowment to keep the estate as a museum.
We started our tour in the greenhouses full of rare and exotic orchids. I took so many photos of things I’ve never seen before. Hilariously, when we bought the tickets the docent said “it’s too bad nothing’s blooming right now.” I took a ton of photos here – like way too many. Here’s a chance to skip the flowers.
Marjorie Post was at one point the richest woman in the US, and this was her custom DC estate. Many rooms had notable pieces of furniture, art, or jewels in them. Notable in that they were created by fabulous artisans, or made of impossibly rare materials. And then there was the art and antiquities collection.
I had not once considered Russian Imperialist art until I came to this museum. The Soviet government was destroying all the art and collectables of the old monarchy and Marjorie Post had an opportunity to buy a ton of it. It’s all very ornate and delicate. Faberge eggs, meticulously painted china, wall-sized tapestries. Beautiful and at times ostentatious objects.
What a way to live! This is the first time I’ve ever seen a house with servant passages and butler’s pantries. They have most of them open or otherwise viewable throughout the mansion.
In addition to a cut flower garden (not very cute in November, but I bet it’s spectacular in the spring), the grounds have a lawn, a putting green, short walking trails, a Japanese-style garden, a dog cemetery, and a couple of other buildings used for events and exhibitions.
After the mansion…
It was pretty wild walking around a museum that’s somewhat of a snapshot of a time. Marjorie Post died in the 70s, and the museum has maintained the home and grounds much like they were when she lived there in the spring and autumn. She was fabulously wealthy, she and her children practically were the society pages. The way she lived feels foreign both for the sheer excess she enjoyed, and for the antiquated time she did it in. In any event, it was a fun spot to visit and lots of beautiful things to see!