Hillwood, Home & Museum

 

In previous visits to Washington, DC, I never really aspired to go to Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate near Rock Creek Park.   But the night Ruth & I returned from Russia, I read in NOW, a DC Guide, that Hillwood is home to the most comprehensive collection of 18th and 19th century Russian imperial art outside of Russia.  We had just been there and seen little decorative art of this era other than a lot of stiff imperial portraits, Tsars and Tsarinas decorated like Christmas Trees.  Now I know why.

To get to Hillwood, one must either take a taxi or Metro to the Van Ness stop and walk about a mile.  Either way, it begins impressing before you even reach the 2nd gate for visitors.  Under the title HILLWOOD in the official tour guide are the words Estate, Museum & Gardens.  Now I know why.

Because she had such a long name, I’m going to call her Marjorie.   Below you’ll see why I think she’d be OK with that.  Born in 1887, she was the only child of  C. W. Post whose Postum Cereal Company evolved into General Foods.  By the time she bought Hillwood, Marjorie  had run through 3 husbands, been on GF’s Board of Directors, raised 3 daughters, and amassed a collection that needed a home.   Her 25 acre estate in Washington was to become both home and museum.

And what a museum!  Hillwood literally abounds in Russian treasures thanks to historical coincidence.  In 1937-38 Marjorie was living in Russia with her 3rd husband, Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, when the Soviet Government desperately needed currency and held’s the world’s grandest close-out sale.  Marjorie bought up entire storerooms and shops full of the kind of precious treasures that royalty routinely collects.  In other words, she saved from an uncertain fate over 200 years worth of  imperial porcelain, chalices (like the one above), etc.  She had 2 Fabergé eggs!

Hillwood is, without any doubt, a 5 Compass destination…especially if you’re female.  I was surrounded by swooning women everywhere I went for 4 hours during which I saw, maybe, half a dozen men, not including security.   After a while, I became less interested in stuff and more focused on Marjorie as a human being as opposed to a fabulously wealthy cultural benefactor.  There’s evidence.  She was born in Springfield, Illinois!   In the introductory film, her daughter, actress Dina Merrill, tells about her mother literally scrambling up dusty shelves looking for Russian artifacts to rescue. There are lots of photos of Marjorie’s daughters, especially in bedrooms.   She didn’t especially like overnight guests.  She loved square dancing.

Hillwood’s gardens are truly magnificent as are its floral arrangements.  I had the good luck of running into Jason Gedeick, the horticulture ace in charge, on my way out.  He told me that because Marjorie was a perfectionist who left a “fresh flower” provision in her will, he’s able to create stunning arrangements, almost year-round, from flowers and plants grown on the premises.  He loves what he does but made one confession. Jason dislikes poinsettias.  They’re difficult to grow.

There’s a courtesy phone in the Visitor Center to call a taxi.

Hank

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About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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