Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Around Town: The Other Half

When my mom comes to town, I like to take her to things we haven't seen before. Though I've lived in the DC metro for more than a decade combined, I can still find plenty that I've never seen. This summer, one of those places was the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. It is the 25-acre former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune, and a feisty businesswoman, charitable benefactor, and general personality in her own right. 

It's one of those "make a day of it" kind of places, because it takes awhile to see everything. The gardens are gorgeous, and with good reason: it takes a lot of work. The estate had 263 volunteers in 2010 who spent over 20,000 hours in maintaining it and helping visitors. That of course is in addition to the staff; there were 13 horitculture and 9 facilities staff members in 2010.

Anyway, as I was saying, the gardens are gorgeous:

Though there's no denying the gardens are gorgeous (which I've said twice already), for me the real highlight was the mansion. I suppose I am more of an interiors gal. Marjorie was a major collector, and though I'm neither a fan of huge collections or of the ornate styles she favored, I love feeling like I'm peeking into someone's private world, and that is what is provided here. Because she bequeathed her home as a museum, it didn't have to be reconstructed after it had been used as an embassy or office building or something. It was intact, and appears as if she just up and left. Of course, that isn't the case, and I'm sure it's heavily curated, but you do get that feeling in the private areas especially, such as her bathroom and the kitchens (the first one is a catering kitchen/butlers pantry of sorts)

I play this game often when I visit houses or museums where I try to pick the one item I'd walk away with if I was allowed to pick one thing. For me, at Hillwood, this was the sofas in the home theatre. Marjorie was ahead of her time--she had a home theatre in her house! And these little sofas were so cool. They had built in drink trays and were the perfect size for, say, a small apartment.

I also appreciated several details, such as this do not disturb sign outside the door (for those pesky servants, no doubt) or the gorgeous geometric metallic wallpaper in a passageway.

I'm sure my somewhat dark (no flash) unprofessionally retouched photos don't do the place justice, but you'll have to go see it for yourself, or check out the website. They have  a virtual tour that will walk you through various rooms and gardens. It makes you think: what would my "estate" look like if someone were to come tour it? I can tell you one thing; it wouldn't be a day trip.

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