Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is a lovely oasis in busy Northwest Washington, DC., with 25 acres of woodland and formal gardens, including a rose garden and Japanese tea garden. As you tour the luxurious mansion, you step into the glittering world of one of America’s first wealthy, successful business women and philanthropist, Marjorie Merriweather Post, of Post cereals and General Foods. Post filled her mansion with 18th-century Russian Imperial and French decorative art, and the mansion is a decorative arts museum.
Post became the owner of Postum Cereal Company in 1914, after the death of her father, and was a director of the company until 1958. She expanded the business and acquired other American food companies, including Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Jell-O, Baker’s Chocolate, Maxwell House, Birdseye and many more — all brands I grew up with and had or currently have in my kitchen. In 1929, Postum Cereal Company was renamed General Foods Corporation. She used her wealth and her husband’s posts as ambassador to the Soviet Union to acquire 18th century Russian Imperial art and religious artifacts.
Touring Hillwood Mansion
In 1935, Post married her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, a Washington, D.C., lawyer. During the mid-1930s, in a crucial period leading up to World War II, Davies served as the American ambassador to the Soviet Union. While they were in Moscow, the couple acquired many valuable Russian works of art. (During the 1930s, the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin began selling art treasures and other valuables seized from the Romanov family and former Russian aristocrats after the Russian Revolution to finance its industrialization and military armament programs.)
Post purchased the mansion, originally built in the 1920s, and extensively remodeled it, moving in in 1956.
The mansion serves a museum and exhibit space for Post’s extensive French and Russian art collection. As you tour the rooms, you’ll encounter the work of Fabergé, Sèvres porcelain, French furniture, tapestries and paintings. You’ll also be dazzled by the jewels she collected. For me, the highlight was Post’s collection of Romanov-family items, including two rare Faberge eggs.
Touring the Gardens
Plan on spending time exploring Hillwood’s various walking paths, in addition to the main house. The gardens are lovely to walk through. We were there, unfortunately, AFTER the azaleas peaked in early May and BEFORE the roses were peak in mid-June. Hillwood’s spectacular gardens capture the vision Marjorie Post conceived when building the estate in the 1950s.
There’s a Japanese Garden, a Cutting Flower Garden that filled Hillwood’s vases, a rose garden and woodland. The estate also includes a conservatory where you can see more exotic plants, especially orchids.
This place is definitely a hidden gem of Washington D.C.!
Know Before You Go
Hillwood Estate includes a café surrounded by charming gardens with either indoor or outdoor seating. The service is friendly and the food is outstanding.
Parking is fairly limited, but well organized by the staff. Hillwood is a mile-long walk from the Van Ness/UDC station on Metro’s Red Line. PLEASE NOTE: There is no bus service from the Metro to Hillwood.
Getting there: 4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; closed Mondays, some holidays, and for several weeks in January.
Website: Hillwood Estate
Looking for more great things to see and do in and near DC?
- Arlington House
- Arlington National Cemetery
- Capitol Haunts
- Cedar Hill National Historic Site
- Clara Barton National Historic Site
- Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
- Lincoln’s Summer Cottage
- Missing Soldiers Office
- Oak Hill Cemetery
- Rock Creek Cemetery
- Smithsonian National Zoo
- US Soldiers Home National Cemetery