The Houses that Cereal Built

We’re all familiar with houses built by presidents and senators, artists and architects.  Houses built by breakfast cereal magnates may not seem to rank in the same way; after all, what’s cereal compared to running the country or changing the history of art?  Mom always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and judging from these impressive structures, she’s totally right.

But first: a brief history of breakfast cereal.  The first cereal as we think of it today was developed by one Dr. James Jackson in 1863.  In the 1890s, two more men jumped on the metaphorical cereal train and were extremely successful: brothers John and W.K. Kellogg.  Their most popular product, Corn Flakes, debuted in 1894, was patented in 1896, and can still be found on the shelves of grocery stores everywhere.   From then on the cereal possibilities grew, and keep growing today.  Heads of these new cereal and grain companies often became quite wealthy, building grand estates as a testament to their business success.

And now, on to the houses brought to you by cereal.

The Mar-a-Lago Club has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.  Now owned and operated as a private club by Donald Trump, the massive 114-room structure was built between 1923 and 1927 by Marjorie Merriweather Post in a style reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa.  Post was the daughter of C.W. Post and heiress to the company Postum Cereals (now called Post Holdings, Inc. or Post Foods), known for cereals such as Grape-Nuts, Fruity Pebbles, and Honey Bunches of Oats.

The Mar-a-Lago Club. Photo by Steve Starr via National Geographic

Mar-a-Lago wasn’t Post’s only home.  In 1921, she built a half-timbered Tudor-style estate called Hillwood in Brookville on Long Island (after she sold it and moved to Washington, DC, she named her DC house “Hillwood” as well).  Meant to be a quiet country retreat, the main house of the Long Island Hillwood estate has 59 rooms, not to mention the guest cottages and 10-car garage.  It was sold to Long Island University in 1951 and is now part of the C.W. Post Campus.

The Marjorie Merriweather Post/Hillwood Estate. Photo: OldLongIsland.com

Corn Flakes’s own W.K. Kellogg also showed his cereal success through his home.  He built his own Tudor-revival manor house in 1925 in Hickory Corners, Michigan.  The house sits on thirty-two acres, which are also home to a carriage house, green house, caretaker’s house, boathouse, pagoda, and Dutch windmill.  The estate was given to Michigan State University in 1951 and now operates as part of the Kellogg Biological Station.

W.K. Kellogg’s Manor House. Photo: W.K. Kellogg Biological Station

New health spas, too, were built thanks to breakfast cereal.  James Jackson established a health spa in Dansville, Livingston, New York, twenty years after developing the first-ever breakfast cereal.  The Jackson Sanatorium or “Castle on the Hill” is currently in preservation limbo.  Likewise, the Kellogg brothers ran the Battle Creek Sanatorium together until a feud tore them apart—W.K. got the cereal company and John got the sanatorium.  The building is now part of the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center.

The Jackson Sanatorium. Photo: Castle on the Hill Facebook Group

The Hart-Dole-Inuoye Federal Center, formerly the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Photo: Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Who knew so much architecture could be traced right back to the unassuming breakfast cereal?

Want to learn even more about cereal’s effect on American culture?  Check out this article from Mental Floss.  Or to find out more about the Kelloggs, listen to this Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast!

This entry was posted in Heritage Travel, Historic Buildings, Historic Sites, History and Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Houses that Cereal Built

  1. Pingback: Triple Ginger Cookies | The Wordy Baker

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