Bill Dedman: Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

He slowly unravels the history of WA Clark Huguette Clark and the battle over the fortune she left behind when she died on the morning of May 24 2011 at the age of 104 Huguette Clark right c 1917 age approximately 11 with her sister Andr e left and her father William A Clark centerThe first part of Empty Mansions presents William A Clark s life combined with a history of the United States particularly from the end of the Civil War through the mid 1920s Dedman strikes a balance between biography and history providing details of Clark s successful career as an entrepreneur and scandalous career in politics while also provided context regarding the economic history of the time I must admit to my eyes glazing over when I read some passages about the Clarks incredible wealth particularly descriptions of a New York mansion since demolished that took decadence to a new level Still there are human elements to balance out these lists of possessions and furnishings particularly regarding the sad fate of Huguette s older sister Andr e Dedman and Newell have a wealth of source material concerning W A Clark but after Huguette s divorce she practically falls out of the historical record She kept and to herself enjoying her mother s company occupying herself for a time with her painting and for longer with her collection of dolls and her research into Japanese culture She had enough wealth to keep the world away if that was what she wanted so she turned her New York apartments into fortresses and collected around her a very small group of people whom she trusted Her reclusiveness increased even after her mother s death in 1963As Dedman and Newell delve into Huguette s recent history they consider some disturbing uestions Were her legal and financial advisors taking advantage of her What kind of mental health was she in Were her reclusiveness and obsession with dolls simply aspects of her eccentricity or symptoms of mental illness Was she responsible to make her own financial decisions view spoilerWhen they discovered she had been living in a NY hospital for 20 ears they wondered why she had never been discharged Were the medical staff and her personal nurse using their influence with her to get rich from her gifts to them hide spoiler The rich are different but the super rich are very much in a class of their own and WA Clark belonged to the very super rich establishment who always carried two grades of cigars fine ones for himself and lesser ones to give away A farm boy born in a log cabin in 1839 his rise to a powerful wealthy business man and US senator is astonishing By 1895 he owned the most expensive 121 room mansion in New York on Fifth Avenue and once completed it was expensive than Rockefeller and Carnegie s homes combined Filled with fine furniture 17 servants twenty six bedrooms thirty one bathrooms the six story mansion was well known for the Salon room This special room held carved and gilded wood panels made in 1770 brought over intact from Paris along with a gilded clock from Marie Antoinette s boudoir while she watched the hands tick by waiting for the guillotine Approximately one third of the book is devoted to WA Clark and his accomplishments which are well worth reading alone The remaining chapters examines the life of his The Ideal Muslim Society youngest daughter Huguette Clark who inherited a 15 share of her father s estate with the rest left to his other four children This part is uite fascinating as Huguette spends and spends millions on frivolous items and gives away still millions to people she meets over theears Empty Mansions will keep the reader enthralled and well entertained with the lives of the super wealthy Highly recommended to all readers One goodreader calls this Mansion Porn oh Linux Networking Cookbook yes Mansion Porn Rich People Porn this book givesou plenty of time to consider how Marcus Garvey you d behave so much appropriately if gifted with 15 million dollars if only some rich old woman would giveou the chance to prove it Too much money makes everyone look suspicious and some of them deserve a closer look The accountant is a skank for sure the nurse a kind benevolent naive exploiter of the first degree poisoned by unreasonable charity and Hughette herself Eccentric Autistic Batshit crazy Hollywood is sure to buy the rights to this one and I can t wait to see Helena Bonham Carter combing a doll s hair in her hospital gown and six layers of cashmere sweater On top of all this sensational rich people drama we re also treated to a focused perspective of America s industrial age The author only lightly introduces the copper magnate s impact on our current environmental crisis how enormous wealth piled up so uickly before EMPTY MANSIONS is my first audiobook of 2018 The plan is to dedicate most of my audiobook listening to nonfiction this FRIENDLY ENEMIES year We ll see how it goes Abandoned places are fascinating to me While the mansions in this book weren t abandoned entirely there were caretakers on site the eccentric owner Huguette Clark hadn t lived in them or seen them in decades In fact she spent her last 20ears living unnecessarily in hospital rooms until her death in 2011 at age 104 The first part of the book was all about Huguette s father W A Clark who amassed a great fortune in copper mines and railroads during the late 1800s Mr Clark had uite an exciting life going from a humble Pennsylvania farm boy to an extremely wealthy industrialist with a passion for art and the finest things money could buy When he died in 1925 his fortune was split eually between Huguette and her four older half siblings The rest of the book focused on Huguette and the ways she spent her inheritance She was an unusual person private to a fault and very generous to people and causes close to her heart She seemed happiest when she was hidden away from the world among her art and her dollhouses As she got older I think there were some who took advantage of her generosity She gave away millions and millions but was she manipulated by those few who were close to her Conflicting wills written close together bring her mental state into uestionEMPTY MANSIONS is a well researched blend of American History biography and family drama The audiobook was performed by Kimberly Farr and she did a fantastic job keeping me engaged in Huguette s story It also contained snippets of phone conversations between Huguette and her cousin Paul Clark Newell Jr one of the co authors of this book Overall I enjoyed EMPTY MANSIONS though given how insanely private Huguette Clark was during her life I think she would cringe knowing this book is out there When I learned that Huguette Clark the focus of Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune owned on vacant estate in Connecticut I knew I had to read this investigative work Being in a non fiction book group gave me the perfect excuse to indulgeMy review is going to be a bit convoluted That is how I felt when I finished Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune All I could think of and I have plenty of company in this is what At the age of Huguette ill and emaciated was taken from her apartment to the hospital Suffering from cancer and 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 911 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 than 30 million in gifts and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune Richly illustrated with 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 termsThe No 1 New York Times bestseller Best nonfiction books of the ear at Goodreads com and Barnes Noble One of the New York Times critic Janet Maslin's 10 favorite books of 20.

characters Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

Well as kind and generous She also chose to live her life alone and in private hidden from the public eye and interacting only occasionally with a very small inner circle I can identify to a point with Huguette s desire to maintain a private life then again circumstance fueled my need to get out there interact and earn a living Not to mention children What if I like Huguette never had to concern myself with such obligations and sundry notionsWe are all of us touched by a different brush Still I cannot help but think that Huguette may have benefited large from a true friend Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune provides a glimpse into the life of one of America s most enigmatic multi millionaires and all her properties and prized possessions Lovely photographs For me a somewhat sad but compelling story Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman was a fascinating read This is an extensively well researched and well written account of a forgotten American Heiress and her father WA ClarkHaving recently watched the series on TV The Men who Build America Vanderbilt Rockefeller Carnegie and Morgan I was delighted when I received this book on WA Clark and his family who were major players in copper mining and other industries during the 1880s to 1930s I really enjoy books of this nature and Empty Mansions proved to be right up my streetWhen the author noticed in 2009 a mansion for sale which was unoccupied for nearly sixty ears he became curious and he did some research and found a surprising portal into American History This book is a fascinating account of mystery wealth loss and finally to a twenty first century battle over an estate worth 300 Million Huguette Clark is the lonely reclusive figure at the heart of this story who lived as a reclusive figure in a hospital room in New York for 30 ears until her death in 2011I loved everything about this book the historical account of W A Clark and the building of his empire was so interesting and very well researched I loved the photographs in the book and found myself stopping throughout this book to Google places and stories I was sad and at times aghast at the wealth and opulence of the Clark Family I was shocked at the vast sums of money Huguette paid out to hospitals carers and friends in order to live the life of privacy that she choosesHuguette s story is a bizarre but fascinating one and I really enjoyed this book from start to finish Thank ou to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the opportunity to read this book in return for an unbiased review A fascinating story offering a glimpse into a world of opulence that originated with a man pursuing the American dream and culminating in a woman s need to hide herself from the world and its sorrows In that it felt as if there were two stories one a historical account the other a psychological drama I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and I developed a deep affection for the woman at its center to an extent that it is hard to separate the critiue of the book from the womanOf the former I will say it was an engaging read the story moved along at a good pace and the genesis of WA Clark s fortune and that of the Gilded Age was clearly depicted The authors maintain impartiality they don t write of heroes or villains there are no verdicts they simply show the complexity of human beings and weave a good tale And while some will complain that there were too many mentions of possessions and excesses I will argue that it was necessary to paint a detailed picture of this world It also provided the counter point to the rest of the story which was in stark contrast to how Huguette would spend her waning Crochet yearsOf the woman I was struck by how child like she seemedet also intelligent and strong who cherished privacy above all else and lived life on her own terms It was easy to see that this shy little girl who lost loved ones at an early age and led a cloistered life with an eually introverted mother found the world too much to endure Her artistic nature and vivid imagination found solace in creating doll houses little environments she could create and control little worlds within her world It is not surprising that she reveled in the details achieving perfection in a way that eluded her in an imperfect worldMy heart broke throughout the reading and even weeks later I am still haunted by her story I do not care to judge this woman as so many have nor to diagnose disorders from a distance eccentricity can be broadly defined and the peculiarities of a life defy categorization I only care to think about the gentle artist that found a way to fashion a life that worked for her perhaps not in a prescribed or accepted way but in a way that provided the safety she sought and the anonymity her circumstances would not allow Most poignant of all was her recitation of a beloved fable Le Grillon The Cricket which concludesto live happily live hidden Update on September 12 2013 I just received the hardcover and the photographs are amazing Upped my star rating to 5 between the photographs and some other adjustments in the text Book is now released Huguette Clark was born to nearly unimaginable wealth and privilege Her father William A Clark was a copper baron who made several fortunes particularly in mining and railroads booming industries during America s Gilded Age At the time of his death in 1925 he had a huge fortune to leave to his heirs including his Playhouse youngest child Huguette Marcelle Clark Huguette married once but got divorced after approximately aear She then turned to a very private life far from the social whirl of New York s elite Over time fewer and fewer people heard from her and hardly anyone saw her She lived in a grand apartment on New York s Fifth Ave with her mother an extremely valuable art collection as well as her beloved collection of dolls miniature houses and Stradivarius violins She owned extensive properties including a mansion with an estate in New Canaan CT that she never lived in or furnished and a grand mansion and grounds in Santa Barbara CA Bellosguardo s staff were ordered to keep the estate as close to its original condition as possible although Huguette hadn t visited in decades These extensive properties caught the attention of Bill Dedman a Pulitzer prize winning investigative journalist When looking for his own house he played a game many of us have he started to look at properties that were hopelessly out of his price range This led him to Huguette Clark and her empty mansions and a mystery was she still alive What was her life like Why were these estates left empty In this enthralling book Bill Dedman provides us with the answers he discovered when on his uest to learn about the reclusive Huguette Clark He joins with one of Clark s relatives Paul Clark Newell Jr who had a series of phone conversations with Huguette over a 9 ear period beginning in 1995 Newell s personal stories about his conversations with Huguette help a flesh and blood person to emerge from the mystery while Dedman s training as an investigative journalist stands him in good stead as. Versations 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 antiue dolls But wanting than treasures she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike to uietly 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.

Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr is a 2013 Ballantine publication This is one of those books I discovered through a Goodreads friend and thankfully one of my local libraries was able to provide me with a digital copy and another one had it on audio so I listened to parts of the book and read the other parts which made this a uniue experience The author describes how he first came across the story of the Clark family s empty mansions and I can see why this story and the mystery surrounding it would appeal to anyone but for a journalist the urge to investigate was nearly impossible to ignore The book got off to a slow start for me as the author went through the family background explaining how the Clark s accumulated their vast fortune But then the book began to read like an episode of American Castles and I got caught up the descriptions of opulence and the blueprints of the main properties owned by WA Clark The designs the furnishings the grounds and the various collections of art and books china and countless other investments were mind boggling I then found myself wrapped up in W A Clark s rather colorful personal life his bid for the senate various scandals he found himself embroiled in and of course his family life All of this is uite interesting but then the second half of the book begins to focus exclusively on Huguette Clark WA s daughter who eventually inherited the family fortune Huguette Clark was an odd duck surely suffering from some form of mental illness such as agoraphobia Which is why she spent the last part of her life in a hospital room instead of living in any of the incredible properties she owned Still she insisted that the properties were maintained although the caretakers never met her in person She maintained an incredible collection of dolls one that kept her rapt attention well into her later ears which added to her eccentric persona But once she shut herself off from the world allowing people access to her funds and realizing her penchant for giving away large sums of money to people namely people who cared for her during her long hospital stay it made her uite vulnerable She was taken advantage of by many people and institutions until her fortune began to dwindle and was put at risk Yet despite her overly generous nature her oddness and mental illnesses she was physically well and I think maybe she controlled her life the best way she knew how unable to trust certain people or capable of coping with the demands and pressures of such a large fortune and the obligations typically attached to it She may very well have done with her money exactly what she wished to although some took advantage of her in a terrible way Sadly her family contested her wills with a three hundred million dollar bounty on the line but one had to wonder if maybe Huguette s mind was sound and she left what was left of her fortune to the people and causes she wanted I was conflicted about the will but felt that most of it should have been left as it was although the nurse Huguette seemed so fond of was not my favorite but then neither were the relatives who came crawling out of the woodwork after her deathThis is a fascinating historical novel highlighting a family whose wealth rivaled the Rockefeller s but whose name faded into obscurity It s a shame the mansions were left unoccupied for so many ears and it s so sad that Huguette didn t do with her life Her story is a kind of cautionary tale warning that money does not buy happiness or contentment This book has been researched thoroughly and gives us an intimate look at the Clark family and their history The audio version includes some actual voice mail recordings and the book provides a few interior photos the mansions I felt like this book was a nice mix of history and family saga rich in historical details sweeping the reader up into the gilded age which is a period of history I find endlessly fascinating Although the book ends before the settlement was reached with the family ou can look up the Clark family on the internet to learn what eventually happened to the long vacant properties Despite the rough start I ended up losing myself in this book and it has wetted my appetite for information on the family and the amazing collections and homes they built 4 stars Let me answer the big uestion first Yes there is a lot of new information about Huguette Clark in this book by journalist Dedman and Huguette s cousin Paul Newell I thought I already knew the whole story about the woman with three of the most expensive homes in America who didn t visit them for decades instead choosing to live in a small hospital room even though she was healthy But Huguette leaps out of these pages like no other recluse since Edie Beale She ought to do for wearing six layers of Scottish cashmere sweaters over a hospital gown what Little Edie did for statement scarves The difference is that Huguette died with 400 million while Edie s Grey Gardens went to the cats Most surprising to me was to learn about Huguette s talent and vocation as a painter and I for one am very envious of the collector who picked up her portrait of a geisha for 104 on eBay in 2010 One small detail that I loved was that in the home Huguette bought in New Canaan and never slept in once she built an addition a painting studio above her bedroom with the balusters of the staircase leading up to it carved to look like paintbrushes Even her much derided passion for dolls and dollhouses was part of a lifelong art project and one that even in her final Dannys Dragon (Tao of Love, years she devoted incredible time and connoisseurship to corresponding with artists around the world and petitioning the Emperor of Japan to use a special protected wood As someone who lives near Newport Rhode Island where the Gilded Age still sits astride the present I was fascinated to read how Senator Clark amassed his fortune and how he chose to spend it His daughter Huguette born in 1906 came close to perishing on The Titanic and survived 911 which givesou a sense of the depth of her life story Everything that seemed ridiculous and sad about this woman in the news reports about her discovery and alleged neglect seems after reading this book understandable and even laudable She had love of every kind in her life gave away millions at a whim and preserved her apartments and homes for ghosts Household Gods yet still died with her capital intact making numerous savvy business decisions and art investments completely on her own Each of those decisionsielded immense profits Somewhere Huguette is having the last laugh with one of her dolls Note I received an advance reader s copy of this book from the publisher Why are we all so fascinated with how the wealthy live their lives This is the story of Huguette Clark oungest daughter of WA Clarke who made his fortune in copper and other entrepreneurial ventures Huguette was born into a life of wealth opulence and privilege It was all she had ever known Her father s mansion in New York City completed in 1911 was considered the most expensive in America She was intelligent talented and devoted to her art in all its many forms as. When Pulitzer Prize –winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale unoccupied for nearly sixty ears 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 ears 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 freuent con.

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