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Hillwood, the home of heiress and collector Marjorie Merriweather Post, has rightfully been called “The Place Where Fabulous Lives.” Situated on 25 lush acres in a comfortable Washington, D.C., neighborhood, the mansion houses Post’s unparalleled collections. Courtesy Ken Beem. French, Russian and Grape Nuts The Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post Barbara and Ken Beem I n the beginning, Marjorie Merriweather Post had no thought of becoming a serious collector. Furnishing a stylish home, on the other hand, was a matter of utmost concern to her, and only the finest would do. With their delicate designs, pastel palette and feminine appeal, eighteenth-century French furnishings, particularly those from the time of Louis XV, spoke to this only child of a breakfast food magnate. Inheriting the family fortune at the age of 27, Post, suddenly one of the wealthiest women in America, was about to embark upon a journey from society bride to sophisticated decorator to world-class collector. And then an extended stay in Russia and a series of knowledgeable mentors combined to expand Post’s world and further refine her eye. Today, her house-turned-museum in Washington, D.C., stands as a testimony to her great wealth, exquisite taste and uncanny intuition for the magnificent. Best of all was Post’s desire to share her largesse with anyone interested in taking a look. Little wonder Hillwood is known as “The Place Where Fabulous Lives.” Marjorie’s story In a land with no royals, Marjorie Merriweather Post was no less than a princess. Born in Springfield, Ill., in 1887, she was the daughter of C.W. Post, who made his fortune from Postum, a powdered decaffeinated coffee substitute, and a variety of popular cereals, including Grape Nuts and Post Toasties. Marjorie’s young adulthood was a series of ups and downs: Married to Edward Bennett Close (of the Colgate fortune) in 1905, she gave birth to two daughters. Her mother died in 1912; her father, in 1914. A year after divorcing Close in 1919, she married E.F. Hutton, the father of her third child (actress Dina Merrill) and the man instrumental in growing her sizable fortune. After their divorce in 1935 came a third marriage, this time to Joseph Davies, a personal friend of Franklin Roosevelt. Davies was appointed ambassador to Russia in 1937. Having heretofore nurtured a passion for French design, Post was suddenly exposed to yet another world, the beauty of Imperial Russia. Post’s fascination with Europe and European royalty grew, and she took advantage of her 18 months in Russia to buy whatever she could. It is said that she purchased silver pieces, many of which had been looted from churches and the homes of the aristocracy, for five cents per gram. Indeed, the nucleus of her Russian collection was purchased in this relatively short period. She seized the opportunity to buy at a time when the Soviets desperately needed cash. And she bought well. Returning to America, Post continued to enjoy a position among the rich and powerful in the United States. When her marriage to Davies July 2014 ◆ Antiques Journal ◆ Page 67