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Hillwood Estate: Russian Art In Washington

July 2, 2020 Headline News, Luxury Traveller Deluxe No Comments Email Email

In an age when companies mining for iron ore, coal, uranium, and personal information yield fortunes for their owners measured in the billions, it is hard to fathom a man building wealth through breakfast cereal.  That is, however, exactly what American businessman CW Post did, seizing on the trend for quick, easy breakfasts in the early 20th century as more and more people went to work outside the home for the first time.  His only child, Marjorie Merriweather Post, inherited her father’s company and turned it into the biggest food conglomerate in the world, known today as General Foods.  Marjorie was very rich.

The former DC home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, now known as the Hillwood Estate and Museum, is tucked away in leafy Rock Creek Park.  It is one of Washington’s best-kept secrets and one of the most impressive of the many small museums found in the American capital.  Marjorie’s third husband, Joseph E Davies, was appointed American Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1937, just at the end of the colossal sell-off of state property previously owned by the Russian imperial family but regarded as obscenely ostentatious by the Soviet regime.  Marjorie’s vast wealth and government connections enabled her to purchase numerous priceless objects while living in Moscow; today, her former residence in Washington is home to the largest collection of Russian art outside Russia.

 

And what a collection it is.  In addition to not one but two imperial Fabergé eggs, Hillwood houses a large collection of French and Russian porcelain, paintings, furniture, and other artwork all discreetly presented in a mansion set on vast grounds in a residential neighbourhood not far in distance but worlds away from the busyness of the city.  Russian Orthodox icons, golden chalices, and crown jewels are all here for the admiring.  In addition to collecting art, Marjorie had a great love of gardens; the grounds of her estate reflect her love of aesthetic horticulture; aside from the south lawn of the mansion that saw many garden parties, several intimate gardens with French, Japanese, and roses as themes are found close to the main house..  A forest trail runs further away, taking visitors among the large trees that include rare redwood trees thought to be extinct with the dinosaurs but found in a remote area of China in the early 20th century.

Marjorie Merriweather Post died in 1973 but, fortunately for travellers to Washington, her legacy lives on at Hillwood, where her various collections give visitors a glimpse into the life of an heiress whose head for business was matched by an eye for beauty.

Hillwood Estate And Museum

By Robert La Bua

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