Marjorie Merriweather Post’s
Hillwood Versus Mar-a-Lago

by Ann Lally

Ann Bierbower Lally is a principal at Altima Palm Beach. Born and raised in Washington, DC. She has fond memories of visits to Hillwood, the home, museum, and gardens on a hilltop in the Embassy district of our nation’s Capital city. She has also enjoyed Mar-a-Lago as a guest at private events.

Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s principal home



Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s principal spring and fall residence, nestled quietly in one of Washington, DC’s most exclusive neighborhoods, is very different from her winter escape, Mar-a-Lago.

If Mar-a-Lago is a pink villa of lavish delights, then Hillwood is a monument to good taste and quiet, yet extraordinary wealth of the businesswoman-heiress, who accumulated more stature during her marriage to Wall Street leader E. F Hutton. Together, they transformed Post Cereals into the successful public company, General Foods. All the while, Mrs. Post, who reverted to her family name after four husbands, continued to cultivate her penchant for collecting French decorative arts, jewelry, and Russian art.

Invisible from the street, Hillwood’s long driveway approaches an elegant, pillared brick mansion more modest in size than Mar-a-Lago, but just as grand for entertaining, on a more intimate scale. The backdrop is 25 acres of spectacular grounds: greenhouse, French parterre, Lunar Lawn, Four Seasons garden, putting green and a Japanese garden, cascading down a hill to Rock Creek Park. Another area includes a cemetery for her beloved dogs and an authentic Russian Dacha, inspired from her years in Russia with her husband during his tenure as US Ambassador.

Above pictured Pet Cemetery, Japanese Gardens and Parterre Garden at Hillwood
Photos: Courtesy of Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, photographed by Erik Kvalsvik


Mar-a-Lago on South Ocean Boulevard had an iconic heritage long before it became a private club. The Palm Beach estate was a winter escape for cereal heiress Mrs. Post, who in 1927 completed the now Historic Register landmark. She enlisted society architect Marion Sims Wyeth for the exterior design. Joseph Urban, a scenic designer and architect, designed the interior, a wonderland for indulging and delighting guests during the roaring 20’s. Sims, a former president of Society of the Four Arts, included in his repertoire another landmark, Doris Duke’s Shangri La estate in Hawaii.

View slide show below

Above Slides: Exterior of Mar-a-Lago as it was originally completed for Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1927 by architect Marion Sims Wyeth & exotic interior room (today at Mar-a Lago)

One Homeowner, Two Approaches to Luxury and Lifestyle

Both homes, profoundly different and on the National Historic Register, were inspired by the same woman. Which is more reflective of Mrs. Post’s true nature and background? On the one hand, she was a serious, driven businessperson. On the other hand, she was a socialite, generous in her entertaining, and giving in her philanthropy.  There was enough money and opulence to go around. She also had a camp in the Adirondacks (Camp Topridge) and the first ever penthouse in Manhattan. But her beloved collections of art and antiques remain at Hillwood, on display. And it is at Hillwood where the public can walk the grounds, take part in educational programs, and experience life as she lived it while she was in residence. This author, for one, senses that Hillwood was her most favored home.