From the exterior, it looks like a nice large home, not like the mansions you would see in Greenwich, Connecticut or McLean, Virginia, its visage is certainly understated, but inside, well come along for a little tour. (For largest display, click on the individual photograph).
This is the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in northwest Washington, D.C. I wrote a short piece about it on May 6th. As I previously mentioned, Marjorie Merriweather Post was the only child and heir of C.W. Post, the cereal baron. In 1955 Ms. Post bought the 25 acre Hillwood estate with its Georgian-style mansion and decided early on it would become a museum. After years of collecting it opened to the public in 1977. It is meticulously maintained and has an absolutely mind-boggling collection of art. The Russian Scared Arts gallery includes Russian Orthodox ecclesiastical objects; chalices, vestments, and religious textiles, the most comprehensive collection of Russian Imperial art outside of Russia.One particular piece is the magnificent gold chalice that Catherine the Great commissioned in 1791 as part of a communion set. Nearby is a nuptial crown from the late 19th century.
Most estate tours do not take you into the less glamorous service areas. The butlers pantry and the kitchen are glamorous in their own way, fitted with what was then state of the art appliances, including the Magic Chef 9-burner stove, multiple Hobart standing mixers, and a Global Gravity Feed meat slicer to mention but a few, peopled with a kitchen staff of up to 35 people, including three cooks working in the kitchen adjacent to the dining room. Your soup would not be cold.
The dining room’s French paneling has a rococo motif, complemented by the Aubusson carpet, and a pair of lapis lazuli and gilt bronze candelabra placed on the dining table with a mosaic top comprised of eleven stones. Here’s an interesting tidbit. The table was designed for Ms. Post’s Palm Beach home, Mar-A-Lago, yes that one, built in 1927 for her and second husband E.F. Hutton. Ms. Post’s will called for its move to Hillwood upon her death. Poor Donald.
Some of the paintings are set in Cartier frames, 18th century French furniture is throughout the mansion, along with French decorative arts, and lush tapestries.
The sheer quantity of the beautiful art, furniture, tapestries, decorative pieces, gold boxes, clocks, Russian artifacts and more can be overwhelming. The pink and gold Post Bedroom Suite has a Louis XVI canopy bed, a neoclassical desk by cabinetmaker Conrad Mauter. The French Collection room is anchored by a magnificent tapestry designed by Francois Boucher and made by Beauvais Manufactory in 1736.
Not everything at Hillwood is from the 18th century, Hillwood is also a showcase for various exhibitions.
Glass: Art. Beauty. Design opens next week, featuring glass from the 17th to the 20th century from China, Europe, Russia and the United States. Some contemporary pieces are on loan, including the this one by Karen LaMonte.
Hillwood is indeed a special place. Instead of building a 300 million dollar yacht for herself, Marjorie Merriweather Post put together a collection and then a museum. “I want young Americans to see how someone lived in the twentieth century and how this person could collect works of art the way I have… I want to share this with the rest of the world.” True, you have to be one of the 1% class to afford it, but it can be aspirational for you.