“It’s so hidden.”

So says a guard at Hillwood Estates, Museum and Gardens in upper northwest Washington, D.C. He’s not quite right, for the 25-acre estate, developed by the heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, is accessible from 16th Street NW, Blagden Road and Linnean Avenue. But it would be easy to pass it up. An elegantly lettered sign, Hillwood 4155, at the entrance on Linnean Avenue gives little hint of what’s inside, but in a typical year it hosts 80,000 visitors.

Gateway to the gardens at Hillwood Estate.jpeg

Within the formidable complex, you will find incredible collections of art, jewelry, paintings from previous times, exquisite period rooms and, OK, some contemporary history linked to the lady named Marjorie in the estate’s visitor guide. Married and divorced four times, she inherited the Postum Cereal Co. fortune and was not ashamed to spend it. It was eventually acquired by General Foods, which merged into Kraft Foods Inc.

Fortunately, her impeccable taste leaves us dazzled with the collections inside the buildings, not to speak of the impeccable gardens and landscapes that line the flagstone walkways. Hillwood, in fact, was Marjorie’s home in spring and fall, which hosted gatherings of the high and mighty. She passed away at 86 in 1973.

Portrait of Catherine II.jpeg

Of the buildings open to the public, the two-story mansion holds the bulk of the priceless objects. Paintings of dignitaries are not identified, but a free audio tour is available on Hillwood’s mobile app. Docents are currently unavailable. Of my priorities, I wanted to see the painting of Catherine the Great, which is next to the staircase at the entry level. Almost 9 feet high, the painting shows her in her royal finery and officially she was the Empress Catherine II, ruler from 1762 to 1796.

In the French Drawing Room, photos of dignitaries sit on top of a Steinway & Sons piano, which is roped off from visitors. I could see those of John and Jackie Kennedy and President Eisenhower, but others were out of reach. There are wall tapestries and French decorative arts of the 1700s.

In the Pavilion Room, the largest in the Mansion, there are portraits, a bread and salt plate, and busts of Peter the Great (1682-1725) and Catherine the Great. And as one of the guards showed me, a curtain would come down at one end to show movies.

Twelve Monogram Egg.jpeg

In the Icon Room are Faberge’s two Imperial Easter eggs.

At the French Porcelain Room are dishes that Marjorie actually used. Displayed behind glass doors, they are of exquisite design and colors.

Unfortunately, the museum’s Dacha, a reproduction of a Russian country house, was closed because there were no exhibits.

Display showcases Marjorie Merriweather Post.jpeg

At the Adirondack Room in a separate building, an exhibit named the Roaring Twenties shows a painting of E.F. Hutton, Marjorie’s second husband and founder of the E.F. Hutton Co. stock brokerage. Next to his portrait are a man’s formal wear and a Harris tweed suit. Elsewhere are women’s formal gowns, period dress and a pair of formal shoes. The exhibit closes Jan. 9, 2022.

Her third husband was Joseph E. Davies, ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1939, and many items were bought from that country that funded industrialization.

Entry fees are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students, and $5 for children 6 to 18. There Is a large gift shop, and a restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Parking is free. Additional fees for maintenance come from donors, fundraising, and an endowment. Should visitors tire, chairs and tables are available indoors and outdoors.

For further information:

hillwoodmuseum.org, (202) 686-5807

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