Hillwood: “Where Fabulous Lives”

posted in: D.C., Tips, Travel 0
I'd like a grilled cheese, please. (Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Estate)
The Dining Room at Hillwood. I’d like a grilled cheese, please! [Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Estate.]
I stood in line waiting to board my first flight of two today and my heart sank for a moment, thinking of landing in LaGuardia and maneuvering through New York’s soul-sucking taxi lines. Then I remembered that no, Manhattan was not where I was headed, that I would sleep tonight in a fluffy white bed in the District of Columbia. I was so happy, I mouthed Michael Jackson “shamone” and did a tiny version of the Thriller low-snap with the stanky leg. Possibly I did this all this out loud and more visibly than I intended, which would explain why suddenly I had more room in line.

I’ll only be in town a few days — New York for a nasty procedure on Friday, Chicago for Christmas — but I have sworn to avail myself of a Christmas-centric D.C. delight before they’re all over. I have many options. There’s the Russian Winter Festival, but that would make me miss Yuri terribly, so I can’t go to that. There’s a Norwegian Holiday Toy Train exhibit at Union Station that I will totally go to because I live two blocks from Union Station and I come from a long line of Vikings.** I could go to various tree-lighting ceremonies, but I want something D.C. specific. Serious research is rewarded; I found a neat thing to do on Saturday afternoon.

The marketing message for Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden is “Where Fabulous Lives.” Nice work, slogan people, because that’s darned good. Hillwood, located inside the city in its northwest quarter, is indeed an extremely fancy place. The person who bought it and made it that way was Marjorie Merriweather Post. You know the Fruity Pebbles you ate for breakfast this morning? Yeah, she was that Post. Her father started the Post cereal empire in 1895 and when he died, it was Marjorie — an only child — who took the reigns and actually made the whole General Mills deal happen. Marjorie was brilliant, clearly, and beautiful, and she had taste like Coco Chanel had taste, though it seems she was far more pleasant at a dinner party.

Marjorie bought Hillwood in 1955 and planned from the start that it would eventually exist as a museum. There are vast gardens, Faberge eggs in lighted, inset, cherrywood shelves, staff quarters — all the stuff you would expect from a billionairess’ fifth home or whatever Hillwood was for Marjorie. And during the holidays, the curators do a lot of neat exhibits, including a showing of Marjorie’s collection of Cartier jewels that “inspire” the decorations all over the house. I think this means that there are either real diamonds or excellent facsimiles hanging from Christmas trees in every room. They also said something about Cartier dinnerware for heaven’s sakes, all set up at the dining room table.

It’s not the crazy wealth I’m interested in seeing. It’s seeing sparkly things. It’s seeing what a woman’s home looks like when she can buy everything in the world but knows better. I’ll go to Hillwood to get into the Christmas spirit, D.C. style, and perhaps I will mark the occasion by purchasing a commemorative Honey Bunches of Oats pin at the gift shop.


**This is actually true. I’m half Scottish, half Norwegian, which should mean I have the soul of a Norse god and an iron constitution. The former is clearly true; the latter must skip generations.