Empty Mansions by Bill Dedmand and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 22, 2014)
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * UPDATED TEXT WITH RESULTS OF THE CLARK ESTATE SETTLEMENT * NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Janet Maslin, The New York Times * Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more. * 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. 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?
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 have been poor all my life… you wouldn’t think I would enjoy a book about someone who had so much money it no longer mattered because she would never run out of it.
But Bill Dedman and a relative of Huguette Clark, Paul Clark Newell Jr.. managed to make this book very interesting indeed. They wrote of Huguette’s father who accumulated the fortune, their family life, and the last of the family, Huguette and her life, eccentricities, charities and gifts of goodness the likes, I am sure have never been seen before or since or never will.
It helps that the beginning of the book grabbed my curiosity: 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. 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.
These people were richer then many names we all know. Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller to name a few. Yet W.A. Clark nor his daughter Huguette I had never heard of.
Wikipedia lists her thus:
Huguette Marcelle Clark ( June 9, 1906 – May 24, 2011) was an heiress and philanthropist, who became well known again late in life as a recluse, living in a hospital for more than 20 years while her mansions remained empty. She was the youngest daughter of United States Senator and industrialist William A. Clark. Upon her death at 104 in 2011, Clark left behind a fortune of more than $300 million, most of which was donated to charity after a court fight with her distant relatives. A feature film of her life is planned, based on the bestselling book Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.
The story is real..
The story is interesting..
The story is beyond belief. (at least for someone like me)
Read Full Post »