A large pillared estate sits on a green lawn surrounded by trees

Q&A With Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Feb 29, 2024

We are excited to introduce you to Hillwood Estate, a DC based museum and garden, and Marjorie Merriwether Post, the estate’s exceptional founder. Discover this relic of history and beauty in the Q&A below.

What is Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens?

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is an oasis in Washington, D.C. When founder, Marjorie
Merriweather Post left to the public her grand estate, she gifted the country with a restorative
blend of formal gardens, decorative art, and history, including an exquisite collection of French
18 th -century decorative art, the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside
Russia, and 25 acres of serene landscaped gardens and woodlands.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Will you tell us about Marjorie Merriweather Post?

Marjorie Merriweather Post was one of the most influential businesswomen, philanthropists, and
art collectors of her time. Born in 1887 in Springfield, Illinois, she was the only child of Ella
Merriweather and C.W. Post, founder of the Post Cereal Company. She learned from an early
age through her father’s entrepreneurial spirit and became one of the most successful
businesswomen of her era. She developed impeccable taste, with a preference for the elements
of harmony, balance, delicate decoration, and superb craftsmanship that characterized the
French decorative arts, and these attributes guided her collecting taste for the rest of her life.

Will you highlight some of the treasures found at Hillwood?

Highlights among the treasures at Hillwood include Fabergé eggs, historic Sevres porcelain,
and French furniture, such as two French commodes by artist Jean-Henri Riesener. Some of
the favorite objects in the collection are those from Marjorie Post’s personal collection of jewelry
and fashion. Sparking jewels by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, and more are on
view in rotating displays throughout the year. Examples of her apparel, which she chose with
the same careful eye that she did her art collection, are on view in her closets on the second
floor of the mansion.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

How did Marjorie Post go about decorating Hillwood?

In all its splendor, Hillwood is the culmination of a lifetime in business, art collecting,
philanthropy, and estate management that gave rise to her singular style and grace. Marjorie
Post purchased Hillwood in 1955, and it remained her Washington residence for the rest of her
life. The mandate for her architects and designers was to refurbish the 1920s neo-Georgian
house into a more stately dwelling that could function both as a well-staffed home and as a
place to showcase her collections. Thought Post maintained strong ties to the eighteenth-
century French decorating style that she developed in the 1920s, this did not keep her from
updating her mansion with the most modern conveniences that money could buy. Journey
through her final home to experience the elegant French drawing room, the efficient and “high-
tech” kitchen and pantry, and the many personal touches that made Hillwood one of
Washington’s most memorable homes.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Will you tell us about some of the parties she threw and the esteemed guests who attended?

Marjorie Post was in the public eye for the parties, dinners, and charitable events she hosted at
Hillwood, from the time she moved in in 1957 until her death in 1973. As was described in a
2018 exhibition that focused on the beautiful tables that Post set:
Marjorie Post selected the linens, silver, and of course the porcelain for each course. A
serious collector of decorative art with a focus on French and Russian pieces, a dinner
party guest at her table could enjoy not only the food, but also the visual experience created with eighteenth-century French dinner services, German sterling silver
hammered fruit compotes, a Russian Imperial military service that included forty-four
plates, and lace runner mats, among many other splendid articles from her collection.
The visual experience of the linens and porcelain formed indelible memories in the
minds of her guests, as did the polish of Post’s staff. Guests at Post’s parties included dignitaries, heads of state, Hollywood actors, businesswomen, and more.

Will you tell us about the gardens at Hillwood?

Redesigned between 1955 and 1957 by landscape architects Richard Webel and Umberto
Innocenti, 13 acres of landscaped gardens extend from the mansion in a progression of garden
“rooms.” Surrounded by 13 acres of woodlands, the gardens include a French parterre,
Japanese-style garden, rose garden, putting green, cutting gardens, and greenhouses full of
orchids.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik

Are there upcoming events planned for 2024 our audience can attend?

Hillwood presents a robust array of enriching and educational programming year-round, both in
person and online. From lectures and workshops to family festivals and films, there is something
for everyone. March is Orchid Month, with a greater variety and number of these exotic beauties
in bloom than at any other time, and it will feature tours, workshops, and colorful displays. This
spring will feature programming highlighting the special exhibition Marjorie Merriweather Post’s
Paris, in addition to annual favorites including floral workshops and garden tours.

Any upcoming exhibits we should have on our radar?

Hillwood presents special exhibitions to reinterpret and enliven the beauty and history of the
collections. In February 2024 we will present the special exhibition Marjorie Merriweather Post’s
Paris. On view through June 16, this exhibition will transport guests to 20 th -century France,
where Marjorie Post stayed at iconic hotels, attended theater, opera, and social events; and
frequented art galleries, antique stores, luxury department stores, and haute couturiers. The
special exhibition will celebrate Post’s passion for French art and culture with items from its
unmatched collection, including fashion, art, jewelry, furniture, and more, focusing on the period
from 1900 to 1969, from Post’s first visit to Paris to her last.
In June 2024, Hillwood will open the special exhibition Fragile Beauty: Art of the Ocean, which
will be a celebration of the ocean, showcasing Hillwood’s wide variety of marine-related art for
the first time while contrasting such works with contemporary art. The exhibition will
demonstrate the beauty of and admiration for these magnificent waters while highlighting the
need for its preservation for future generations.

Where can people find you?

Website: www.HillwoodMuseum.org
Instagram: @HillwoodMuseum | Facebook: www.facebook.com/HillwoodMuseum

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