Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hillwood House

Post's Hillwood House in D.C.
Maybe, it started when I was a kid. When I would walk to school, and I was alone, I would walk through the alleys to get to my destination. There was something to being able to look in to the houses where other people lived that fascinated me. I liked my childhood home; I was happy there. But I wanted to see how others lived. It isn't so different for me now. One of my favorite times of the day to take a walk is at dusk. Lights turn on and people are returning to their homes after work, perfect for a peek in. I don't look at the people as much as the color of a wall, the lamp that is in the window, and any decorative pieces that I can make out. It makes sense that I like to tour 'important,' here in America or abroad, homes for some of these same reasons.

When I visited the Hillwood House, a home that Marjorie Merriweather Post, the sole heir to the Post-General Foods fortune, bought in Washington, D.C. in 1955, I felt that hers was a happy home, as I compare it to some of the other homes that I have visited, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina for example, that were beautiful, but felt like sad houses. Post's home was chocked full of beautiful things to look at. The rooms bordered on fussy, for it was clearly construed as a feminine habitat. Though she blew through marriages, four in total, she happily ran her empire and collected a wealth of Russian Imperial Art, the largest collection outside of Russian, and an impressive 18th Century French Decorative Art Collection.
Marjorie Merriweather Post's bridal portraits
In one of the rooms on the second floor, Miss Post's four wedding portraits are displayed prominently. She seemed to enjoy men, but, I imagine, it was difficult for her to establish a solid connection when she was before her time. She was a modern woman when women deferred and fussed over their husbands- "Title divine -- in mine" as Emily Dickinson mocked this type of women and how their status was determined by their right to be 'Mrs.' Her dashes held a lot of ... questions. And I heartedly believe that Miss Post was happy to fill the pause with a lust for life and an ability to take care of business. From what I gathered as I toured the home, she took advantage of each marriage to grow as an individual. First, she became knowledgeable about art in NYC when a marriage took her there, and she started her collection of Russian art when another took her to Moscow.

To the left is one of the glorious pieces that are in the home. Each side of the goblet is embellished with different carvings. The photograph does not truly capture the exquisite detail of the piece. This particular room was the most like a museum. Religious art was framed on the wall, which you can see through the glass that incarserates the beautiful chalice that it holds. I did not take a docent led tour, and the brochure for the house did not give specific details of all of the works, but I think that on the first visit, it was enough to just wander through the rooms and imagine her life there and to try to take in the splendor of so many pretty things.

If you can see past the shadows, this fleshy pink Faberge egg is the Catherine the Great Easter Egg. Having just watched through for a second time Netflix "Peaky Blinders," I especially like this one as Alfie Solomons, the Jew, who is brought into the Russians precious things vault, asks to see 'an egg.' Of course, he is speaking to Faberge. The Russians cough one up for him to add to the collection plate, but I have an idea that it is Miss Post who ends up with it in the end. This one was prominently displayed as it was Catherine the Great's, but there were others tucked into corners all over the house. It would look with my collections of knickknacks; perhaps, it could come to me on loan.

Although it was a very warm, August day, we did venture out into the garden, which was lovely. Post planted cutting gardens, which were in full bloom, but I liked the overlook into the Oriental Garden best with its lush greens and water features. The round stepping stones are meant to be traversed. And though my balance is tenable at best, it was fun to carefully skip across them to the other side. In the gardens, two buildings house special collections. Now, it is Japanese Art Deco. The air conditioned rooms were a great pause from the heat. The collections were small, but interesting nonetheless.

We saved the house for last. Our friends who live in Washington, D.C., have a season pass for the Hillwood House. If I lived in the area, I definitely would do the same. Although located right in the heart of D.C., it is a beautiful hamlet of beauty and repose. Even with one hundred degree heat, the lawns looked the perfect place to pull out a blanket and spend a few hours quietly considering the lovely or reading a book. Some patrons were there for tea. We didn't have a reservation, but were able to get something to eat and drink. I would definitely want to go back to have tea. Some of the ladies were dressed up and hatted. How fun would that be to have a dressed up tea party. And then wander through a happy home that sparkles for all of the delights that it holds.

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