Second entry in a series about interesting places around the greater D.C. metropolitan area
Even though I had visited Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden sometime around 2010 or 2011, using a Groupon that David and I had randomly gotten online, it was last year's visit with my Mom (featured in the picture above) that brought back the memory of this hidden gem right on our backyard.
Hillwood is a house museum on the Northwest area in Washington, D.C., right above Rock Creek Park, nestled in between the daily hustle and bustle of Connecticut Avenue, one of D.C. major thoroughfares, and the quiet beauty of Rock Creek Parkway, the two-lane road that traverses D.C.'s own national park.
Hillwood is the former residence of its founder, the businesswoman, philanthropist, and art collector Marjorie Merriweather Post. She was the sole heiress to the sizable Postum Cereal company fortune (later on renamed into General Foods). Post left Hillwood, the estate and its charming gardens, including its remarkable collection of 18th century French and Russian Imperial decorative arts, originally to the Smithsonian Institution; however, the Smithsonian returned the property to the Post Foundation in 1975, which has run the museum ever since.
In addition to her many accomplishments as a member of the Board of Directors of the General Foods Company, a generous contributor to the National Symphony Orchestra, and a connoisseur of European decorative arts, Post was also a well-known hostess of luxurious dinners, luncheons, and garden tea parties when she was in residence at Hillwood, which was always the fall and spring. One just has to look at the lavish table decorations on Hillwood's dining room table to realize that Post took entertaining her guests very seriously!
When you are walking through the mansion, you feel as if you have stepped back in time. If you enjoy beautiful objects, superb craftsmanship, and a whirlwind tour through 18th century France and imperial Russia, all in DC's backyard, you don't want to miss out on this gem.
Hillwood's gardens are as beautiful as it mansion's interior. You can enjoy a hot summer's day or a cooler fall afternoon next to the flowing water in the French Parterre Garden, or you can explore the many nooks and crannies in the Japanese-style garden. Lawn furniture and benches invite the tired stroller to sit down and just take in the peaceful surroundings, only minutes away form the hustle and bustle of Connecticut Avenue, one of DC's major thoroughfares. Bring a book and a picnic, or stop by the cafe and enjoy some lemonade or afternoon tea (served on Sundays).
Whenever I am at Hillwood, I usually stop by the small, but carefully curated and delightfully arranged gift shop - to the detriment of my budget! The collection of jewelry for sale is particularly noteworthy, as well as all sorts of beautiful knickknacks. It's a great place to find a small gift for a loved one or some random stocking stuffers.
For more information on Hillwood, check out my blog entries in the series "The Excellent Adventures of Docent Isabell." I joined the vibrant volunteer community at Hillwood earlier this year, when I, together with 29 other art and history enthusiasts, started as a docent-in-training. All of us completed our training in June and have been leading visitors on 1-hour long highlights tours. So when you visit Hillwood, make sure that you join me or one of my wonderful colleagues!