Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell Jr.

17704903

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345534522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345534521
When Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Bill Dedman noticed a real estate listing for a grand estate in Connecticut that had sat empty for nearly sixty years, he had no idea that he was stumbling onto one of the most surprising American stories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—complete with copper barons, Gilded Age opulence, backdoor politics, and a reclusive 104-year-old heiress.
 
Empty Mansions explores the fascinating life of Huguette Clark, an enigmatic figure who had not been photographed in public since the 1920s. Though she owned three palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, they sat vacant while she lived out her final two decades in a New York City hospital, despite being in excellent health.
 
Dedman and Huguette’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have had frequent conversations with Huguette, present a fairy tale told in reverse: a daughter born into privilege who in time locks herself away from the outside world. By age twenty, Huguette had inherited her fortune from her father, copper industrialist W. A. Clark, who at the dawn of the twentieth century was one of the richest men in America, possibly even as rich as John D. Rockefeller. The money afforded Huguette gorgeous paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renown Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique  dolls, lavish gifts for friends (and even strangers), the freedom to pursue her own work as an artist, and the privacy she valued above all else.
 
The Clark family story encompasses the entire span of American history in just three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from cross-country travel in private railroad cars of the nineteenth-century to a police investigation in one of the largest apartments on Fifth Avenue in the twenty-first-century. The same Huguette who held a ticket for the return trip of the Titanic was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11.
 
Making use of twenty thousand pages of personal and financial correspondence, Dedman and Newell transport us into Huguette’s private world, where we meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her noble French boyfriend, the nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives seeking to inherit Huguette’s $300 million fortune. Including previously unseen photographs of Huguette and her homes, Empty Mansions is a rich and touching story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.
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Book Recommendation only and not a review by me.
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