Living Artfully: At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post
From the glamour of Palm Beach, to the rustic whimsy of the Adirondacks, to the distinguished social scene of Washington, D.C., Marjorie Merriweather Post brought to her multiple residences a flawless style of living and entertaining that was made possible only through the gracious management of loyal staff.
For the first time, the personal stories of family, staff, and former guests will echo throughout transformed spaces at Hillwood—some never before open to the public—to bring to life the formal dinners, charity events, garden parties, and weekend retreats that made an invitation from Marjorie Post the most sought after in her time.
Immerse yourself in the opulent Mar-A-Lago of Palm Beach's gilded age, the mid-century modern design of behind-the-scenes spaces at Hillwood, and the surprising details of the Sea Cloud—once the world's largest private sailing yacht—to see the real inner workings of Post's grand homes and perfectly coordinated way of life. Experience the seasonal rotations of a year in the life of Marjorie Post during the late 1950s and 1960s, when she moved from residence to residence—winter in Palm Beach, spring at Hillwood, summer in the Adirondacks, and a return to Hillwood in the fall—with perfectly managed planning and precision.
Every year for Post began with the social season in Palm Beach, Florida. In the 1920s, Post and then husband E.F. Hutton built Mar-A-Lago, their grand estate, which served as the venue for many glamorous events. Later, Post began the International Red Cross Ball, which established her as a legendary Palm Beach hostess.
Currently home to the original centerpiece of Post’s Mar-A-Lago dining room—the remarkable Florentine hard-stone mosaic table—the Dining Room at Hillwood will be transformed with special installations to reflect both the Hispano-Moresque design and the lively spirit of Post’s Mar-A-Lago. Multimedia displays, archival images, and table settings in the Dining and Breakfast Rooms will reveal not just the splendor of life at Mar-A-Lago, but also the behind-the-scenes efforts necessary to make it all happen.
In the spring, Post’s routine brought her to Hillwood, where her carefully planned garden design, timed to her seasons in residence there, welcomed her with thousands of flowers and shrubs blooming across the estate. During this season, she famously hosted formal dinner parties, luncheons both large and intimate, and delightful garden parties.
From the first impression made at the motor court, Living Artfully will resonate with all the fine details that characterized a guest’s experience at Hillwood in the 1950s and 60s. The perfectly orchestrated welcome that met visitors is revealed through archival images and special tour stops in the social spaces at Hillwood, as visitors move from the entry hall to the French drawing room to glimpse the era of the 1960s against the backdrop of 18th-century French décor. On their way to the pavilion, the grand room in which Post famously hosted receptions and presented first-run movies to her dinner guests, visitors will pass by the newly refurbished wet bar.
The Sea Cloud
Post’s grand yacht, the Sea Cloud, was run with very much the same precision as her residences and a display of the décor that furnished it will be on view in the first floor library. Alongside an intricately-detailed model of the ship itself, on loan from Post’s youngest daughter Dina Merrill, these surprising details will convey the enduring fondness that Post had for the Sea Cloud, even years after she sold it.
Camp Topridge: Summer
When the busy spring social season at Hillwood came to an end, Post's private plane, the Merriweather, turned its flight schedule to the Adirondacks, taking Post, her staff, and guests to Camp Topridge on Upper St. Regis Lake in upstate New York. There a summer of weekend house parties and retreats, featuring formal dinners, luncheons, picnics, games, and movies, occupied the hotter months of the year.
The Adirondack building will be transformed to reflect the rustic whimsy of life at Camp Topridge. Archival photography will document the perfectly-choreographed arrival of staff and guests, from the landing of Merriweather, to the boat ride across the lake, to the funicular that transported guests and luggage from the water to the main camp. Now a private residence, Topridge still houses many of the original furnishings and items that Post chose for her distinctive camp, and many of these are on loan for the exhibition.
The fall was Post’s private time at her Washington estate. Additional transformed spaces at Hillwood, some offering exclusive opportunities to see areas never before open to the public, will reveal the efforts that happened behind-the-scenes to achieve Post’s flawless style of living and entertaining.
Downstairs, the midcentury modern kitchen and butler’s pantry will shed light on the work of preparing Washington’s most memorable meals including "up-to-the-minute" appliances, a nine-burner Magic Chef stove, and an enormous Sta-Kold freezer—a nod to Post's frozen foods heritage. Archival images of staff and their private spaces, including the staff dining room and lounge, organizational charts, and personal recollections reveal the important part that her staff played in every aspect of Post’s life.
Moving upstairs, visitors will experience the hub of Post’s private life, where she spent the mornings coordinating every detail. Post began the day in her dressing room. Here, photos, guest lists, menus, and correspondence will be on view demonstrating the important work that occurred in this intimate space. A peek into her closets, designed to hold just one week’s worth of ensembles, uncovers the coordination that took place between Post and her staff to outfit her for the variety of business meetings, luncheons, and dinner parties that she attended.
Living Artfully: At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post is being presented in time with a publication of the same title by Hillwood curator Estella Chung. Fully illustrated with an abundance of photographs, hand-written and typed notes, menus, invitation cards, and other ephemera, much being published for the first time, the book follows Post’s yearly calendar and offers a vibrant and intimate picture of life in each residence—for Post, her guests, and her staff.
Living Artfully Special Access Tours
Visitors with special access to additional behind-the-scenes spaces will discover that Marjorie Post’s Hillwood truly was a home of the 1950s and 60s.
Tuesday - Saturday & Select Sundays: 10:45 am and 2:30 pm
Your experience of Living Artfully can be extended to include an exclusive look at the recently renovated fallout shelter—one of four that Post had built across the estate—complete with pink walls and a supply of goods from General Foods, the Pavilion balcony and film projection booth, and Marjorie’s personal massage room, equipped with hairdryers and a permanent wave machine.
These special access tours can be added to your Hillwood experience for $12 per person (this is in addition to your suggested donation.)
Tours are free for members at the Contributor level and above, and $10 for all other membership levels. To discuss upgrading your membership or joining, contact membership manager Kara Hershorin at 202-243-3939.
Availability for these special access tours is limited and can be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitor Center upon opening each day they are offered.
Hillwood members and groups of ten or more may make reservations in advance.
For more information, please click here.