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Book Chronicles Historic Home of Cereal Heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post


Rita Langdon,Associate Provost and Director of Public Relations
C.W. Post Campus,
Long Island University

"Hillwood: The Long Island Estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post"It’s a sight that awes visitors. Its famous Elizabethan style and detailed architecture tell a story of wealth and social prominence that embraced Long Island’s North Shore in the early 20th century. And today, the former mansion of one of the world’s wealthiest women and the centerpiece of a well-known college – the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University – is the subject of a new book, “Hillwood: The Long Island Estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post.”

In 1921, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, financial wizard E.F. Hutton, purchased the modest Spanish-style home in Wheatley Hills, Long Island (now Brookville, Long Island) for $400,000. Over an eight-year period, the pair transformed the property into an Old English country estate featuring a Tudor-style mansion, manicured lawns, formal gardens, wooded trails, a water garden, horse stables, guest cottages, a child's playhouse, a dog kennel, a working farm, greenhouse and 10-car garage.

Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Gardens, Washington D.C.Perched atop a sprawling six-acre lawn, the 59-room Tudor revival mansion was the scene of opulent parties for royalty, world ambassadors and North Shore socialites. Within its walls, Marjorie entertained Hollywood friends Flo Ziegfeld and Billie Burke (“Glinda the Good Witch), heads of state such as Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, and Long Island’s most famous residents such as William R. Coe and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. The mansion was a childhood playground for Marjorie’s famous daughter, Nedina Hutton, who grew up to become the actress Dina Merrill.

Co-authored by the C.W. Post Campus’ Historian Ken Mensing and Associate Provost for Public Relations Rita Langdon, “Hillwood” details the mansion’s personality through an up-close look at its stately Tudor and medieval period architecture. The home was designed by well-known architect Charles Mansfield Hart of the New York City firm Hart & Shape and features rough-hewn half-timbered patterns, Tudor gables, carriageways, carved soffits, a playful children’s wing, an ornate library, grand staircases, lobbies adorned with ornamentation of animals and hunters, a slate roof, formal dining room, a Great Hall living room and 340 leaded windows.

Mensing says, “The home stands today as a testament to the accomplishments of a visionary woman who desired to have a residence where her family, friends and guests could enjoy a peaceful, country getaway.”

Today, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s mansion serves as the administration center for the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.At its height, Hillwood employed 100 people, including maids, chauffeurs, secretaries, a wine steward, security guards, groundskeepers, chefs and cooks and butlers and was used by the family approximately four months out of the year (April to June and December) from 1921 to 1951 until the estate was sold to Long Island University. They tended to 178 acres and the 30,000 square foot of interior space in the mansion. Tucked away from public view were walk-in iceboxes, a flower room, kitchen, and an enormous basement with a modern water infiltration system and storage vaults.

The book contains 100 photographs of the mansion and its interiors as well as the grounds and outbuildings. It also features vintage photos of a smaller companion cottage, built in 1928 for Marjorie’s eldest daughter, Adelaide Close Durant, just 123 feet away from Marjorie’s main house. Photos of a life-size dollhouse, constructed for Dina in 1934, also adds great interest to the book.

Today, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s mansion serves as the administration center for the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. The 97-year-old residence underwent a three-year restoration from 2004 to the late 2007 with a gift from C.W. Post alumnus Gary Winnick who attended classes in the mansion when he was a student and once met Mrs. Post at a football game.

The 56-page book is currently out of stock.

Posted 03/18/2008

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