Monday, April 12, 2010

Visit to Hillwood

Sunday, members of the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club and I visited the Hillwood Museum, sometimes known as the Hillwood House, in Northwest DC (near Rock Creek Park).




The Hillwood House was owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of C.W. Post and heir to the Post cereal fortune. When her father, C.W. Post, died in 1914, she became one of the richest women in America at 27 years old and the owner of Post Cereals. She was married four times in her life, for a total of over 50 years, most notably to husband E.F. Hutton for 15 years, which spawned the creation of General Mills and the acquisition of Birds Eye frozen vegetables. Post also had three daughters, one of which is still living and is over 80 years old.

During her life, Mrs. Post owned many homes and collected a ton of art and valuable collectibles from all over the world, first for decorating purposes, and then she embarked on a course of self-education in the decorative arts. She enrolled in classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, blossoming her lifelong passion for refined decorative objects.


After collecting for many years, Mrs. Post bought the 25-acre Hillwood estate in 1955 (built in 1926) and immediately began renovations and enlargment, in order to house her collection and create a museum, all while still living in the house. She loved to entertain and held grand parties here, showing off her treasures, until her death in 1973.
Once you arrive at Hillwood, visitors are treated to a short, 10-minute film about Mrs. Post and Hillwood, which is extremely informative and prepares you to enter the house. Once you leave the visitor's center, you're naturally inclined to pull out your camera and photograph the house itself.


But then, to our dismay, we soon found out that we weren't allowed to photograph inside the house. I think I knew this before going though, it's posted on their website.




What I didn't know is that we would be required to check our cameras at the door! That's right, we had to put them away into our camera bags and give them to the guard inside the foyer, and get a little ticket to get it back later. A camera check, if you will. There were (not-so) hidden cameras located in every room of the mansion to ensure that there was no photography. It's just as well, because visitors are allowed to go on a guided tour or use the digital audio tour headset and wander around the house at their leisure. In some rooms, it was really tight, so if we had tripods in hand, camera bags on our backs, etc., we would have surely damaged walls and knocked things over.
Instead, the pictures below were found online, to give you an idea of Hillwood's interior.
This is the foyer, where I last saw my camera. (lol, I got it back later) We were reminded not to touch ANYTHING and like a bozo, the first thing I did was put my camera bag down on a huge marble table by the front door in order to put my camera away, where I was nearly accosted (ok, not really) by two guards, reminding me not to touch the furniture. The table was likely 200 years old. Whoops!
The main staircase, near the front door.


This is one of the dining rooms in the house, surprisingly, the "informal" dining room. It is decorated in different ways througout the year.


This was the French Drawing room. Mrs. Post collected of a ton of French art and ceramics, items with gold plating and royal crests, many items associated with royalty.


The dining room. This room was HUGE.



Mrs. Post collected Faberge' eggs, two of them shown below. Did you know that Carl Faberge' never personally designed/created his famous eggs? He employed master artisans to do it for him, who worked for his company, Faberge'.


I also didn't know that, just like Easter eggs, Faberge eggs famously held valuable surprises inside, usually equal or greater in value than the egg itself, and likely sentimental to the person receiving the egg. However, the surprise in both of these eggs were lost.
See the gold pattern on the midnight blue and diamond egg below? It appears that they were painted on the egg, but if you look closely under a magnifying glass, you can tell that each pattern was actually carved into the egg, and the gold was carefully poured in and finished.

This was the pavilion, where Mrs. Post held film screenings on a second tier, shown on a projection screen which was lowered from behind the curtains on the far wall. When we saw the room, it was filled with cool furniture, with tray tables that folded out from the couches for (Mrs. Post's) visitors to sit their drinks and popcorn onto. She was also a fan of square dancing, and would clear the room of furniture (like the photo below) for square dances.




Every room in the house held huge antique paintings, but the one shown in the pavilion blew my mind. It's by a Russian painter named Konstantine Makovskii, called Boyar Wedding Feast. We were all immediately in awe of the light captured in the painting, and impressed by the sheer size of it. Shown on the left in the photo above, the painting was approximately 8 feet high by 12 feet wide. HUGE and beautiful at the same time. It depicts, of course, a wedding feast in Russia, where the bride has only met her husband that day, the day of the wedding. Find her on the right in the painting below. She looks thrilled.



I'm officially a fan of Makovskii. You have to see this in it's true size, this doesn't do it any justice.


Now, let me have my camera back--we're off to the gardens!
The rear of Hillwood


One of the cool things about Hillwood is that for all of the NoTouch rules inside of the house, the outdoor grounds were fair game. There were benches and patio chairs every step of the way, and we were welcome to sit and chat and even eat. I saw peope with picnic blankets and their children eating and playing amongst the most beautiful gardens, likely, in all of DC.
Check out the cool patio table on the Lunar Lawn
Bowie-Crofton Camera Club members ready for action
I don't generally like or appreciate photos of flowers, but we're in a garden. What would you do in a garden like this?




Mrs. Post's pet cemetery. Should have known a woman like that had a bunch of dogs throughout her life.





There were more gardens, and even a putting green, where Mrs. Post famously invited party guests to putt with putters that she provided, and then encouraged them to take them home as souvenirs!


There was a terrific Japanese garden and pond, designed in the 1950s by Shogo J. Myaida, the further you walked behind the house. It was my favorite garden of them all.


I love the Hillwood House. I want to go back with a picnic blanket and friends or family and just relax, eat, and take in the most beautiful scenery in the District. You'll forget you're in the city.
Insana
p.s. In case you're wondering, the house is open throughout the week except Mondays, and there is a cafe on the grounds to purchase food. Admission is a "suggested donation" for adults of $12, and $5 for children from 6-18. (5 and under, free). Plus free parking, right on the grounds! It makes my re-visit that much easier to plan.

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