Marjorie Post’s Hillwood is one of the must-see museums in Washington, DC

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A trip to the country’s capital can be particularly satisfying for lovers of art, architecture and style. Not to mention nature.

In 1791, George Washington commissioned Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design the new federal district on the banks of the Potomac River. L’Enfant’s urban designs have stood the test of time. Rock Creek Park, a 1,754-acre retreat, runs through the heart of the city. It is surrounded by lush, tree-lined streets and boulevards that are home to grand estates and stately mansions, as well as beautiful government buildings.

Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1942. Photo courtesy of CM Stieglitz, Florida State Archives

Here are some of the city’s hidden gems, bequeathed to the public by citizens, that are worth visiting.

The Hillwood Museum

Marjorie Merriweather Post perfected the art of living well. She wintered in Mar-a-Lago and spent summers in New York at Camp Topridge, her 30-building Adirondack Mountain retreat. During the spring and fall she was at Hillwood, her sprawling Washington, DC estate

Post, like a handful of her contemporaries, went to DC as a student and discovered a vibrant 10 square mile city where politics, diplomacy and culture intermingle.

The heiress purchased Hillwood in 1955. The mansion sits on 25 acres of landscaped gardens and natural woodland.

Two Imperial Carl Fabergé eggs are part of the exhibition from the Russian collection at the Hillwood Museum.

She was an avid, knowledgeable collector, endowing the country with the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia, as well as a distinguished collection of 17th-century French decorative art.

The orchid-filled breakfast room at the Hillwood is set with Meissen porcelain for four.

Visiting the house is like traveling back in time. If Post came back today she would find the house ready for her:

The breakfast room, filled with orchids, is always set up for four people.

The dining room is a showcase for the sumptuous dining table originally designed by Joseph Urban for Mar-a-Lago. It carries 12 place settings from their extensive china, linen, glassware and silver collection, complete with fresh flowers. The tableau is changed several times a year.

Post’s bedroom suite is furnished with French furniture and fabrics, and the closets contain a range of fashions that change for display throughout the year.

Also of note at the museum is a special exhibit in the Adirondack building, “Grace of Monaco: Princess in Dior,” which will run through January 8.

The Palm Beach Friends of Hillwood event will take place on February 21st and 22nd. Celebrating Hillwood’s latest release, The Houses and Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post: The Joy of it.

A carved limestone wall panel, probably from El Cayo Chiapas, Mexico, is in the Philip Johnson Wing of Dumbarton Oaks.

Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks is across Rock Creek Park in Georgetown. It was home to Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss. In 1940 they donated the home and galleries, farm buildings, and 16 acres to Harvard University for use as a research facility.

During their life together, the Blisses were avid collectors of Byzantine and pre-Columbian art. The Byzantine collection includes 17,000 seals, jewellery, plaques, mosaic icons, illuminated manuscripts and paintings.

The Pre-Columbian Gallery was designed by Philip Johnson and completed in 1983. It consists of eight cylindrical glass rooms. As the foliage of the surrounding gardens changes with the seasons, the artworks merge with nature.

A special exhibition entitled A Beautiful Dichotomy: Contrasting Pre-Columbian Peruvian Ceramics is currently on view. These works show 4,000 years of earthenware vessels.

A visit to Dumbarton would not be complete without a tour of the gardens, which are currently celebrating their centenary. The garden spaces, grounds, pathways and walkways designed by Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand contribute to the ‘Home of the Humanities’ that the Blisses conceived and built.

A wood, brass and copper figurine from Gabon stands in the sculpture wing of the Kreeger Museum.

Kreeger Museum

In 1963, Philip Johnson and Richard Foster designed a lyrical travertine-clad building to house the art collection of David and Carmen Kreeger. It is set in 5 acres of gardens and terraces that provide a backdrop to important sculptural works.

From 1959 to 1974 the couple collected important works of modern art. They focused on paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by Monet, Picasso, Braque, Stella, Mitchell and Frankenthaler.

The collection is also a showcase for the Washington Color Painter’s School, featuring works by William Christenberry, Gene Davis, Sam Gilliam, Simmie Knox, and Paul Reed.

It is an interactive place with concerts, exhibitions, jazz festivals, yoga in the garden and lectures.

when you go

HILLWOOD MUSEUM

Location: 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW

Hours:10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays, most public holidays and a few weeks in January.

Entry: Suggested donation of $18; $15 seniors

The information: hillwoodmuseum.org, 202-686-5807

DUMBARTON OAKS

Location: 1703 32nd Street, NW

Hours: 11:30am to 5:30pm Tuesday to Sunday, excluding public holidays

Entry: For free

The information: www.doaks.org, 202 339-6400

KREEGER MUSEUM

Location: 2401 Foxhall Road, NW

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday to Friday; 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Entry: $10; $8 students/seniors/military

The information: www.kreegermuseum.org

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