By Jacqueline Favaloro
On October 6th, students, faculty, and members of the community piled into the Great Hall for a trip back in time to study the life of Marjorie Merriweather Post.
Kenneth G. Mensing, the Universityís historian, presented the group with an abundance of information, which he traveled over three states to acquire. Photographs, advertisements, and even architectural blueprints were displayed to better understand the estate, and the socialite who inhabited it. ìMensing knew so much,î said Mike Greco, a junior ttheater major. ìHe was so enthusiastic about the history of Post.î
From 1921 to 1951, the mansion was home to Post Cereal Company heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. She purchased the land for $400,000. The estateís Tudor style was an icon of Marjorieís extravagant social and financial status. The mansion served as a retreat for her family and friends to escape the chaos of New York City.
Mensing spoke of famous individuals such as actress Billie Burke (Glinda, the good witch in The Wizard of Oz) and the Grand Duchess of Luxembourgís frequent stays at the mansion during the first half of the 20th century. Marjorie loved to entertain, and had frequent social gatherings at the mansion. She was generous in inviting her guests to stay as long as they liked, and supplied them with anything they might have needed. She used to tell anyone who stayed with her, ìIf there is something you wish for, but do not ask for, it is your own fault.î
Those in attendance were able to see what the mansion looked like before Long Island University bought the estate in 1951. Photographs of the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, and solarium helped to set the scene. All of these rooms today, however, make up most of the administrative offices in the building.
The Provostís secretaryís office is covered with the original wallpaper that adorned the walls when the room was used as a bedroom. To the side of one of the desks is the opening to what used to be a bathroom. The walls of this tiny turquoise tiled room are plastered with old Christmas cards from the 1930ís.
Parts of the gardens are still in existence today. The rose arches and the patio overlooking Humanities Hall are all original foundations. “Going on the tour was a lot of fun,” said Ali LaRocca, a junior public relations major. “I learned a lot of interesting facts about Post history.”
To find out more, you can pick up a copy of “Hillwood: The Long Island Estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post,” the only known comprehensive history of the Brookville residence of Marjorie Post. The book is co-written by Mensing, and on sale in the campus bookstore.