A while ago I mentioned the Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC., in a post about new books including one called Living Artfully At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post. Ms. Post was the founder of General Foods and as a wealthy society hostess she became quite famous for her parties. She was also a keen collector of Russian and French antiques and art. Hillwood Estate was one of her homes and it is open for the public to visit. I was so intrigued that I wanted to find out more about her and her house.
This view of the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens is enough to make anyone want to throw a garden party! Ms. Post bought the 1920’s neo-Georgian mansion in 1955 and she would spend spring and fall here. She headed to her Camp Topridge home in the Adirondacks for summer and stayed warm in winter at her Palm Beach villa.
The grand piano is the focal point in this room. It proves that even a wealthy heiress and businesswoman still wants to show off her family photos! Marjorie Merriweather Post was a big fan of 18th century French decorating style, and had the house refurbished and furnished to reflect her tastes. I love the gracious combination of the large ginger jar, needlepoint arm chair, and dainty round side table.
This gorgeous Catherine the Great Fabergé Easter egg is one of the treasures on display at Hillwood Estate. The Fabergé egg was made for Emperor Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, to give to his mother on Easter morning in 1914. It is known as the Catherine the Great egg because it once had a mechanical sedan chair inside it, carrying Catherine the Great. That part of the egg has since been lost. But still, it’s more than impressive! The pink enamel and gold egg, encrusted with diamonds and pearls, is a pretty feast for the eyes. The egg was given to Marjorie Merriweather Post by her daughter in 1931. It was the second Fabergé piece in her collection… by the time she died she had nearly 90! Obviously she developed a taste for the stuff. The Fabergé is all on display at Hillwood Estate.
This magnificent chalice was commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1790 as part of a liturgical set. She presented it to the Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The gold and diamonds came from the State Treasury and Catherine provided the craftsman with her own carved gems depicting scenes from the life of Christ. One is a 13th century cameo of the Archangel Michael. The chalice became part of Ms. Post’s collection. Isn’t it a wonderful piece? If you’re feeling inspired, we have some very fine antique religious treasures in our gallery, and I promise they are all a lot easier on the pocket than this regal beauty!
As the hostess of legendary parties, Ms. Post was keen on punctuality and was careful about tracking her menus so she didn’t repeat them. But as the founder of General Foods she didn’t hesitate to serve up her own company’s foods as part of the fancy meal. Posh debutantes and powerful politicos would find themselves eating Jell-O!
Her signature dish was Adirondack Pie. As far as I can gather, this was a sweet dish of 10 to 15 large and thin pancakes – like French crêpes – layered with butter, maple syrup and maple sugar. Then you slice the entire stack like a pie. (You can top the whole thing with whipped cream too.) The dish is still served at the Hillwood Estate Café. It sounds very much like the French dish Gâteau Mille Crêpes, pictured here.
Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens is located in northwest Washington, D.C. Have you visited? Tell us about it in the comment box below!
Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with Aimee on Google+ or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.