Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Take It On The Run, Part II

After running from place to place for three days, Friday was a little more relaxed. We had planned to visit Monticello, but decided that we didn't have time to drive down there and get back in time for the Friday evening festivities. So, Brother of Ken started doing some research and found some recommendations to visit Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on 25 acres in Washington, D.C.
We arrived on Friday morning to tour the estate and gardens and decided to tour the gardens while it was early. It was still hot and humid, but I can't imagine what it must have been like later in the day. We were allowed to take pictures in the gardens, but not in the house, so I took a lot outside.

Mrs. Post spent a lot of time and money on her gardens and, when she died, she made sure that her estate continued to support the gardens and horticulturists necessary to care for all that you are about to see. She saw each garden as a different outdoor room and each of them have a different theme or purpose.

We began our tour on Friendship Walk, which is a garden that was designed for Mrs. Post by her close friends. It was mostly green bushes and stone paths, so I didn't take pictures of it. From Friendship Walk, we went to the Putting Green, which is a small nine hole course with cool 1960s blue lawn furniture (the same lawn furniture that is placed throughout the gardens). Finally, we arrived on the Lunar Lawn, which is part of the entrance to the front part of the house. This is a cute dog shoe scraper outside of the front entrance that reminded me of Kenna:

The Lunar Lawn:

When Mrs. Post lived here and the trees weren't so tall, the Lunar Lawn provided a clear view of the Washington Monument.

This lion sculpture was imported from England:

A squirrel sculpture (for Larry):

Leaving the Lunar Lawn, you follow a path to the Dacha:

There are sculptures of dogs all over the place. This one is at the entrance to the pet cemetery, where Mrs. Post had headstones for all of her pets (even the ones that didn't die at Hillwood):

A view out into the trees that surround the property:

A view of the Lunar Lawn toward the house from the Vista Terrace:

Plants around the Vista Terrace:

One of the most incredible "rooms" in Mrs. Post's garden is the Japanese Style Garden. This is the path that leads to the garden from the Vista Terrace:

The top of the Japanese Garden with millstones that you can walk across:

The colors of the trees are gorgeous:

A view of the waterfall:

A little bridge:


The very bottom of the waterfall looking up (you can see Brother of Ken in the center of the picture to the left):

The top of the waterfall looking down:

We left the Japanese Gardens and headed toward the French Parterre, which you can see through the opening in the photo below:

On our way into the French Parterre, we passed through the Rose Garden, where Mrs. Post is buried beneath the monument in the center:

The French Parterre:

Our next stop was the Dacha (basically, a smallish Russian vacation home), which we had glimpsed earlier, but got a good view of the second time around:

This is the Adirondack house, modeled after Mrs. Post's own vacation home in the Adirondacks:

A view of the house from the Adirondack building:

This is the cutting garden. Mrs. Post requested that after she died and the estate became a museum, there would always be fresh seasonal flowers throughout the house that came from her own gardens, just as there were when she lived here. There are between 25 and 30 horticulturists on staff to take care of the gardens, cut flowers, and make arrangements:

Flowers in nearby beds:

There is also a greenhouse, which you can see a little of in the background:

The path leading to the back entrance of the house, where we entered to tour the mansion:

More dogs in the Motor Court:

The back entrance of the house, off of the Motor Court:

Mrs. Post was the daugther of C. W. Post, the founder of the Postum Cereal Company. She learned about her father's business from an early age and became the sole heiress of the company when her father died in 1914. She was married four times and her third marriage to Joseph E. Davies, who was Roosevelt's Ambassador to Russia, sparked her interest in Russian imperial art, which makes up a large portion of her collection. She lived in Russia for a year and a half with her husband and began collecting Faberge eggs, imperial portraits, and objects from the Russian Orthodox church. She also collected French porcelain and, when she purchased Hillwood after her divorce from Davies in 1955, she decided to make the house a museum for her growing collections.

Hillwood was built in the 1920s, overlooking Rock Creek Park. When Mrs. Post bought the property, she remodeled the house and enlarged it to house her collections. She had planned for a long time to allow the house to be opened to the public following her death.

If you ever go to Hillwood, I would recommend taking the audio tour and skipping the docent guided tour. The docents are quite nice, but I always like to go at my own pace and the audio tour allows you to wander around and hear as much or as little about each space as you wish.

The first floor tour includes the entry hall, the French drawing room (which looks out over the French Parterre), the Russian porcelain room, the pavillion (where Mrs. Post had dances and showed movies), the icon room, the library, the dining room, the breakfast room, the pantry and kitchen, the Russian liturgical gallery, and the French porcelain room.

The second floor tour includes the hallway (a large staircase with a lot of portraits of the Russian imperial family), the library, the Adam bedroom suite, and Mrs. Post's bedroom suite and dressing rooms.

The whole estate is extraordinary and we really enjoyed our visit. It was relaxing to wander around the gardens and house at our leisure and Mrs. Post's art collection is wonderful.

When we were done at Hillwood, we had lunch and then decided to spend part of the afternoon at Arlington Cemetery since we hadn't been in several years. I didn't take a lot of pictures, but the ones that I do have are mostly from outside of the cemetery:

A view of the city from the Kennedy burial site:

We got off of the tram to see the Kennedy grave site and just about the time that we were supposed to get back on the tram to go to the Tomb of the Unknowns, it started pouring rain. When we got to the Tomb of the Unknowns, it was about time for the changing of the guard, which we watched as it rained. If you ever get a chance to go to Arlington, take time to see this ceremony. After that, we were wet and running out of time, so we skipped Arlington House and drove to our hotel in Georgetown, where we spent Friday and Saturday nights.

The major reason for this trip was to attend the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas at the National Cathedral. Family of Ken came out early to do some sightseeing, but we had to meet up with the rest of the Kansas people on Friday evening.

On Saturday, we had a special tour of the cathedral and then our own Mass in the Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea (Saturday just happened to be his feast day as well). Saturday night, we had a special catered dinner. I don't even know where we went. All I know is that our motor coach pulled up to the loading dock of some building in Georgetown and we had to wind our way through the hallways of the building until we arrived in a private dining room.

Sunday, we were special guests at the 11:15 service and the Bishop of Kansas gave the sermon. Anyone who is interested can see the video of the service

The Cathedral staff and volunteers were wonderful and made us very welcome. They had breakfast for us at Sayre House before church and allowed us to look at the city from the observation deck after church.

We had a great week together--lots of good food, laughing, sightseeing, and quality time together. Thanks to Mother and Father of Ken for a great trip!