The Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum & Library House Beautiful Series, Hillwood: Living Artfully with Marjorie Merriweather Post.

June 10, 2013

The Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum & Library concluded its House Beautiful Series with “Hillwood: Living Artfully with Marjorie Merriweather Post” .  The Executive Director of Hillwood House and Gardens, Kate Markert marked  the storied life and career of the “American Empress” Ms. Post.  Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress of  the Post cereal fortune, was an only child.  Her father sat her in the boardroom of his burgeoning business at an early age.  A woman of fine taste, business acumen and political savvy, she wielded considerable influence during the 20th century.  That broad timeframe continues even today after her death in 1973.  Hillwood, her home, is a Museum, in Washington, D.C., open to the public.  Ms. Markert described Marjorie Merriweather Post’s singular Russian art collection including her two Imperial Faberge eggs. Like the interior of Hillwood, Ms. Post’s  gardens (Noted below) are of museum quality:  French parterre, a Japanese garden and if one can call flowers a work of art, freshly cut floral arrangements from the Museum’s greenhouses which daily adorn the Hillwood House.  Fittingly, from her summit lawn one can see the spire of the Washington Monument.  Kate Markert described  Ms. Post’s time in Russia with her then husband,  Ambassador  Joseph Davies, and after as hostess to presidents and political leaders in her Washington Hillwood Home.

Ambassador John Work and Alice Warder Garrett’s Home in Baltimore, MD

The Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum & Library House Beautiful Series was held in Evergreen’s private theatre designed by celebrated Russian émigré Léon Bakst (1866-1924), best known for his set designs for the Ballet Russes. Built in 1858 for a Baltimore entrepreneur,  Stephen Broadbent, Evergreen belonged to the Ambassador John Work Garrett (1872-1942) and his wife Alice Warder Garrett (1877-1952).  The Garretts made their home an artistic and cultural center soon after inheriting the property in 1920.

The Gardens of Hillwood, Washington, D.C.

The twenty-five acre estate in northwest Washington, DC, was purchased in 1955 by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Between 1955 and 1957, after she purchased the estate, Post hired prominent landscape architects Umberto Innocenti and Richard Webel, to expand the existing gardens. Thirteen acres of formal gardens flow from the house in a progression of “outdoor rooms.” Each of these rooms, meant to complement the 1926 Georgian mansion’s indoor spaces, is decidedly private yet connected to adjacent gardens through subtle transitional features. The layout reflects not only the design vocabulary of the landscape architects, but also the distinctive taste of Mrs. Post.

The Innocenti and Webel-designed French Parterre, featuring typical formal elements of an 18th-century French garden, serves as a complement to the 18th-century French art and furnishings. Just beyond, lies the Rose Garden, redesigned by landscape architect Perry Wheeler. Other highlights of the gardens include the Shogo Myaida-designed Japanese-style Garden, a testament to the taste for oriental gardens influenced by the reintroduction of Japanese culture to America during the 1950s; the Friendship Walk, a colorful, flowering monument honoring Post’s lifetime of philanthropy; and the Lunar Lawn, a large, crescent-shaped lawn that provides a view of the Washington Monument.




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