Empty Mansions

Empty Mansions

The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of A Great American Fortune

Book - 2013
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Janet Maslin, The New York Times * St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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.

Praise for Empty Mansions
"An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity." -- The New York Times
"An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol ." --The Daily Beast
"Fascinating . . . [a] haunting true-life tale." -- People
"One of those incredible stories that you didn't even know existed. It filled a void." --Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
"Thrilling . . . deliciously scandalous." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, c2013
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780345534521
Branch Call Number: 305.5234092 Clark -D
Characteristics: xxviii, 456 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Newell, Paul Clark Jr


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Oct 18, 2018

Very good narration of a quirky subject.
The magnanimous personalities of the super-wealthy seem far and few between but the characters of W.A. Clark and his daughter Hughette certainly make for an interesting listen. It boggles the mind how much money was tossed around but never ceases to amaze me how people will show up hat-in-hand to take what they can.


Apr 28, 2017

I really liked Huguette and didn't want the book to end! Seeing as her stolen Degas is at the Nelson (within walking distance!) I plan to go see it as soon as possible, and think of Huguette.

Jan 28, 2016

I feel like I missed out on something by listening to the audiobook version instead. I might come back to the book and actually read it, because I generally love stories about crazy-sad-poor-rich people and their crazy-sad-poor-rich-people problems.

Nov 19, 2015

Ebook comment: I love this book although I have to agree with one criticism that it's "property porn" (and what lovely property it is too).
Very well researched. Historical biographical non fiction. An interesting look at one of the wealthiest American families you've never heard of. The book photos, etc. are much better than ebook. And both are better than audiobook.

Nov 18, 2015

This is a great book!
I recommend the actual book if possible (rather than audio or ebook) due to photos and other primary-source materials published in the hardback.
The detailed research for the book is impressive in itself, but the storytelling keeps you interested. Historical, biographical and rich in quirky details about one of the wealthiest American families you've never heard of -- check it out.

Nov 15, 2015

Mrs. Clark became the last surviving member of the children of fabulously wealthy W. A. Clark, a copper baron from the Belle Epoch. Her reclusiveness and end-of-life generosity put her at odds with distant family generations removed from her. So interesting.
Reading about her artistic talent, her passions and seeming kindness was fascinating. You'll have to search online to know how the lawsuits following her death end—if that matters.

Oct 10, 2015

sad story. I can't believe that her nurse got so much of her money.. and that doctors were trying to extort millions from her. what a disgrace!

Mar 17, 2015

Fascinating tale of the reclusive heiress to an enormous fortune, told in such a way as to be easily followed, even though the story itself is quite complicated. As an aside, while you're reading, take the time to google some of the artists Huguette Clark collected and supported. It's amazing.

Jan 14, 2015

This is a long book and I thought it might become boring but it never did. Found it very interesting.

steven7 Dec 18, 2014

An interesting book about a woman few people knew. What can you say about someone who had millions at their disposal and chose to live as a recluse in a hospital wasting her life away. Dedman did a good job trying to unwrap the enigma of Clark. Perhaps today, someone could have stepped forward to help her.

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steven7 Dec 18, 2014

steven7 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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