Hillwood Estate: A National Treasure

I spent the weekend in D.C. with the intention of going to the Cherry Blossom Festival. However, knowing my obsession with decorative arts, a friend suggested that I make a trip Hillwood Estate to see its architecture, interiors, and gardens. I am by no means a D.C. expert- but I had never heard of Hillwood Estate before. Nevertheless, a visit to a historic home & garden sounded like the perfect way to spend this springtime afternoon.

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Hillwood Estate is set atop the hills of Northwest D.C.

Overlooking Rock Creek Park in Northwest D.C., Hillwood Estate was the eventual home of Marjorie Merriweather Post- art collector, heiress, and daughter of cereal industry innovator C.W. Post. A businesswoman in her own right, she acquired Postum Cereal Company (later known as General Foods Corporation) and become one of the wealthiest women in America.

Living in New York City for several years, Marjorie mixed and mingled with socialites, artists, and collectors. She was inspired to begin her own art collection of French decorative arts. In 1937, she discovered her true love of Russian imperial art when she moved to Russia with her third husband, United States Ambassador Joseph E. Davies.

After divorcing Davies in 1955, Marjorie purchased Hillwood Estate to serve as her residence and as a museum for her world renowned art collection. With architecture by Alexander McIlvaine and interiors by French & Company and McMillen & Company, the estate was designed to be a public showcase. Even after her death in 1973, her jewel box home continues to welcome visitors each day.

The entire house was full of gems, but here is a sampling of my favorite rooms:

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The Entry Hall is a blend of French and Russian decorative arts- with its 18th century French furniture and imperialist Russian portraits and objects, it sets the stage for Marjorie Merriweather Post’s art collection
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A room with a view: the Breakfast Room is designed to bring the outdoors in with its spectacular view of the gardens
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Dinner is served! Post hosted dinners for up to 30 people using her vast collection of French & Russian porcelain, glass, and flatware
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The French Drawing Room reincarnates a sense of 18th century French aristocratic style and was used for Post’s many receptions
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The Adam Bedroom Suite is decorated in the Adam style with its pastels, geometric motifs, and Wedgwood ceramic accents
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The Japanese-Style Garden is one of the many formal gardens on Post’s estate

After a long day at Hillwood, there was no time left for the Cherry Blossom Festival. However, my visit to was well-spent- I loved going off the beaten path and exploring one of D.C.’s hidden gems.

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Maybe I missed the Cherry Blossom Festival, but I was still able to find cherry blossom trees at Hillwood!

2 comments on “Hillwood Estate: A National Treasure

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