I am reading a book called Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman. The book is about heiress Huguette Clark, her family, her mansions and her doll collections. Huguette Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104. After her death there was a battle over her $300,000,000 estate that was resolved in September 2013. Mrs. Clark had no children and was married for a short time in the 1940’s. She had mansions in Santa Barbara, California and in New Canaan, Connecticut. She also had apartments in an apartment building on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Although she was not ill, she lived the last 20 years or so of her life in a hospital in New York.
Santa Barbara Home
Her homes were vacant the last 50 or 60years of her life but were well maintained with permanent staffs.
Her father was W.A. Clark, a miner in Montana who eventually became one of the richest men in America. It was W.A. Clark that spurred development of Las Vegas. He also was the developer of the first railroad line from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. W.A. Clark was also Senator from Montana.
Here is a review of the book I found on the internet:
Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
When Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.
I am almost finished with the book. It really is a good read. I have also been following the recent settlement of her estate and have read the Settlement Agreement filed in Court in New York. The Settlement Agreement is as interesting as the book.