When Huguette Clark died at age 104, no one had seen her, even in a photograph, for decades. Intensely private, even the caretakers of her sprawling estate hadn't seen her for years. She had three mansions to her name, but she chose to spend her last 20 years in a New York City hospital room. She was the heiress to her copper mining, industrialist father's fortune. At the time of her death in 2011, she was worth $300 million.
Her estate, Bellosguardo, in Santa Barbara, was just one of three spectacular homes.
It's a perfectly manicured, 1930s French Villa.
Her mansions became the subject of NBC reporter Bill Dedman's bestselling book, "Empty Mansions." It included contributions from Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives that actually had conversations with Huguette. A feature film based on her life and legacy is underway, from "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy.
Huguette Clark was born in Paris in 1906, but soon moved to New York City with her family, where they lived in the largest home in Manhattan.
Huguette was a painter, musician, philanthropist, and collector.
She married a Princeton law student in 1928, but they divorced just 2 years later.
It was then, around 1930, that Hugette started to fade into her hermitic life.
She became increasingly suspicious of outsiders and began cutting off contact with her family.
When she did talk to people, she would speak only in French to lessen the chances of an eavesdropper hearing her.
According to "Empty Mansions,” the only people in Huguette's life were “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 her copper fortune.”
Bellosguardo is currently vacant, but still in very good condition.
Huguette's will left three-quarters of her estate to charity, $30 million to her nurse, and $12 million to her goddaughter.
She also left $8 million to the Bellosguardo Foundation. Amazingly, it costs $40,000 every month to keep the property in acceptable shape.
Last year, Santa Barbara mayor said of the property, “As soon as the Foundation receives ownership of Bellosguardo, the Board can start transforming this 23-acre property from the mysterious mansion on the hill to a place that will foster and promote the arts for the public good. I know the Santa Barbara community has dreamed about this opportunity for decades, and I am very appreciative of everyone’s assistance and patience since the settlement was announced in September 2013.”
The garage still contains a 1933 Chrysler Royal Eight convertible.
And a 1933 Cadillac V-16 limousine. The license plates are from 1949.
A full tour of Huguette Clark's other homes is available here.
The estate’s name means "beautiful lookout." It’s easy to see why, and it makes it even stranger that Huguette would leave a place so wonderful behind.
Source: Messy Nessy Chic | Photography: Empty Mansions