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

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  8,801 ratings  ·  1,290 reviews
When Pulitzer Prizewinning 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 it...more
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Ballantine Books
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Kris
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!
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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 dea...more
David Stone
Let me answer the big question 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 l...more
Kathrina
One goodreader calls this Mansion Porn; oh yes. Mansion Porn, Rich People Porn, this book gives you plenty of time to consider how you'd behave so much more appropriately if gifted with $15 million dollars, if only some rich old woman would give you 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,...more
Sue
Nov 07, 2013 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history and biography lovers
I hastily put a hold on this book at the library after reading my GR friend Kris' review. (In fact I tried to request it before they had ordered it, I was so anxious to read this!)

This is the story of Hugette Clark, the youngest daughter of William A. Clark, a business tycoon who made his fortune in copper. While unknown today, his riches rivaled men such as Rockefeller or Vanderbilt. Starting with William's parents, the Clark family spanned the entire history of this country in three generation...more
Nancy Oakes
Empty Mansions is one of those books where you don't get sucked in right away, but once you're there, there's no way you can leave. I have a long review you can read by clicking here, or just stay for the shorter version. Either way, right up front I'll say that you probably haven't read another book like this one.

Empty Mansions is a book that proves the old axiom that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, and, I would add, just as captivating. The centerpiece of this book is Huguet...more
Rebecca
There is a small bedroom off a hall leading from the third-floor ballroom in the Copper King Mansion in Butte, Montana. The bedroom was once that of a servant of William A. Clark; now it’s the home of hundreds of dolls. Thousands of glass eyes stare at visitors from the rug-to-ceiling collection that lines all four walls of the bedroom. Huguette Clark wasn’t responsible for the room’s décor; the mansion was bought in the 1950s by a lady whose children and grandchildren operate it as a B&B. L...more
Bayneeta
Maybe 3 1/2 stars. Especially enjoyed the material on the reclusive Huguette's copper baron father, W.A. Clark who amassed the vast fortune she spent so eccentricly. Well researched with extensive notes section. A nice long article in The New Yorker on the subject would have probably satisfied my curiosity.
Dem
Sep 06, 2013 Dem rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dem by: NeT
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 W.A Clark.

Having 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 W.A Clark and his family who were major players in copper mining and other ind...more
Nancy
A Fairytale Life

Hugette Clark, the youngest daughter of W.A. Clark, the Copper King, lived a reclusive life. The fabulous amount of money inherited from her father allowed her to live exactly the way she wanted which included having two homes and three apartments that she didn't visit for over 20 years or more. One, Bellosguardo, was kept ready for an immanent visit for nearly forty years.

She collected dolls, paintings and musical instruments. She paid for doll houses built to her specification...more
Amelia Gremelspacher
This book is wonderful mansion porn. Bill Dedham had found himself confounded by a mysterious mansion that he stumbled across while dream house shopping. He discovered it was owned by Huguette Clark who had not lived in it for sixty years yet maintained it in lovely condition. With Paul Newell, a relation of Clark's, he has set upon the mystery of this wealthy heiress of the W.A. Clark copper fortune. The cultural and historical detail is exquisite and complete. Indeed the prose is a pleasure. B...more
Nick
Un. Put. Down. Able. I took a break for dinner and to sleep through the night and that's about it.

Somehow I missed all the hype about Huguette Clark when she lived and died and just happened upon this at the bookstore. I could not be more happy that I did. The gist: reporter discovers in 2009 that an American heiress named Huguette Clark has three enormous homes (in Santa Barbara, New Canaan, and Manhattan) and that she hasn't lived in any of them in at least twenty years. The house in New Cana...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
I'm truly astonished by the wealth in this book! I have never even heard of W.A. Clark or his daughter Huguette, that's how reclusive she had become over the years. But this was a fascinating look into the world of the ultra-rich during a time period that I wish I could have seen but can only ever imagine. Recommended.
Lori
Incredibly interesting read about a fabulously wealthy woman. Initially, I was simply curious about the details of the house on the cover I didn't expect the story itself to be so fascinating.
Courtney
It took me a couple of months before I could get this book from my library. I was something like 35 in the reserve line, so my expectations were pretty high. It took me a while to get into it, but I will say that where other reviewers were unhappy about the amount of time spent discussing Huguette's father W.A. Clark, I actually really enjoyed his story. In fact, I am very interested in learning more about him. A self-made man who become one of the wealthiest in U.S. history. . . Who wouldn't be...more
Toni
I looked forward to reading this book, especially as Dedman, one of the authors, is a Puliter Prize winner. It was interesting and chock full of research. However, it was too full of research—such as the enormous size of the water heater in the Connecticut chateau or the census results with regard to the servants at the Fifth Avenue apartment—that seemed to me to have been included whether or not they moved along the admittedly fascinating tale of the Clark family, especially Huguette Clark and...more
Lyn
Absolutely Wonderful! A Must-Read!
The press has written much about the Clark Family due to W A Clark being one of the richest men in America. What? You haven’t heard of him? Once he was a household word similar to Carnegie or Rockefeller. What happened, why haven’t we heard of the Clark family for decades? The answer is found in the book Empty Mansions – the Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of an American Fortune. While many articles have been written about Huguette Clark, this...more
Jane
Where I got the book: LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program

Journalist Bill Dedman came across one of Huguette Clark's properties when, frustrated by never seeming to find the right house to move to, he decided to look up properties he really couldn't afford on the internet. As you do. This led him to discover that Huguette Clark had spent the last decades of her life in an ordinary room in a New York hospital, despite being in reasonable health and having multi-million-dollar real estate in New Y...more
Melissa McCauley
I can’t quit thinking about this story and telling everyone Huguette’s sad tale. After her mother’s death, this super-wealthy heiress (who was obviously not “normal”) withdrew from the world and descended into an unhealthy existence, locked away in her darkened apartment. (When you are super wealthy, you are not a hoarder, you have an assistant who curates your doll collection)

It makes me so sad that there was no one to be her advocate, a cautionary tale for financial and estate planning. When...more
☽ Moon Rose ☯
Oct 04, 2013 ☽ Moon Rose ☯ rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☽ Moon Rose ☯ by: Goodreads September 2013 Movers and Shakers
It is through the eyes of the young Pip in Great Expectations that the forlorn image of the rotting Satis House first emerged from its somewhat undisturbed perch of decaying condition after years of its owner′s continuous neglect and isolation. Screened from the outside world by its soot infested blackened walls, creeping with uncut vines that seem to keep the boarded up windows eternally closed as if veiling itself in continuum from the prying eyes of human curiosity, where inside its dark and...more
Daisy
At first I thought my curiosity would be satisfied by skimming this and looking at the photographs. But it's so readable. It's a comfortable, very interesting read, a kind biography. Not a misprint. I mean a kind biography depicting a peculiar, reclusive, generous Huguette.
Oh and on a personal note, there is a building in Los Angeles where W. A. Clark established a home for working women in his mother's name, Mary Andrews Clark. It still stands although its purpose has changed, but that's where...more
Q2
Also posted here with a few pics: http://yourhumanguineapig.blogspot.co...

This blog post has nothing to do with the current state of my health, directly, but I'd like to make the argument that reading does much to benefit one's health. So, I submit to you, a review of a book that just...surprised me: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of the Great American Fortune.

I thought I would skim this book and send it on back to the library, but instead I found I physic...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Fascinating book on the life of Huguette Clark, heiress to the copper fortune of W.A. Clark. At one time she'd lived in the largest mansion in Manhattan. She spent her early adult years living with her mother an a fabulous apartment on the 12th and 8th floors at 907 Fifth Avenue, where she could see the Empire State Building being built. She spent the last 20 years of her life, voluntarily living in a hospital room while possessing a fortune of over 300 million dollars, as her mansions and apart...more
John Frazier
Beware house hunters: You may end up stumbling upon much more than your next home if you're not careful.

A few years ago author Bill Dedman was out doing just that when he came across one empty home that caught his eye. Not because it was beautifully built and right in his price range, mind you, but because it was incredibly expensive and absolutely empty. As, it turns out, were many others owned by the same person.

You see, Dedman had come across one of several mansions owned by Huguette Clark, t...more
Don
Empty Mansions is a fascinating trip into the lives of one gilded age family, ending with the youngest daughter of W. A. Clark, a copper baron and U.S. Senator. Huguette Clark valued her privacy and the privacy of her family above all else. Fueled by a life of losing her closest loved ones, fear of kidnapping as a child, and people always seeking money, she became reclusive...and somewhat eccentric. Viewed by many as crazy or senile, she was neither. She was intelligent, an artist, and a caring...more
Elizabeth
Huguette Clark grew up wealthy. Wealth that most people can't even imagine. Her father W.A. Clark made a fortune in copper.

When he died, he spread his wealth among his children from is first marriage and Huguette and her mother. An older sister died when she was a teen.

Huguette grew to the ripe old age of 105 and spent the last twenty years confined to a hospital room (although she was in perfect health). She was known for being quite generous with her money and the author explores this aspect...more
Bam
Stranger than fiction is the cliche that comes to mind when reading about the eccentric life of Gilded Age heiress Huguette Clark. She was the last child of copper millionaire, W. A. Clark and the first hundred pages or so of the book are about his life and how he acquired his tremendous fortune. Huguette's mother, Anna, was W. A.'s second wife, 39 years his junior, and together they had two daughters, Andree (who died at 17) and Huguette (who lived to be 104). After Clark passed away, mother an...more
Suzanne
The case of Huguette Clark is fascinating, but this book lacked spark for me. It seems well-researched, complete with lists and tables related to her finances and all the people that benefitted from (or took advantage of) her tremendous generosity. But somehow, even the narrative feels a little bit listy, at times. I didn't love the way it was organized. In some stretches, particularly near the halfway point, I felt like it was "Meet so-and-so. This is their complete personal history and how the...more
Jennyb
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

Travel the world? Buy opulent mansions, expensive cars and sparkly jewels? Give it all away? Yes? No?

How about this: would you spend millions collecting antique dolls and exquisitely intricate doll houses? Buying and maintaining costly homes, the inside of which you'd never actually see? Painting the view from your window, but never actually venturing outside to see it?

These are the things that occupied the long and reclusive li...more
Tori
Well.......maybe 3.5 stars. Parts of this book were really interesting. Just having this close look at the lives of the rich was fascinating - for a while. At the end, though, I just thought, "and why is this important?"

I wasn't a big fan of the organization of the book. It kept jumping around in time, and covering many of the same things over and over again. The "Tell-all" is about Huguette clark, the daughter of WC Clark, a self-made multi- millionaire, who died at the age of 104(?). She was...more
Ann
As I grow older, I seem to find more inspiration in works of non-fiction. The research and depth of exploration in books like EMPTY MANSIONS have the ability to make me question what I thought I knew about the world.

On the other hand, I don't think there IS another book quite like EMPTY MANSIONS. Why didn't I love history when I was in school? How did the teachers manage to make it so dry and unappealing? Here it is a page turner, non-fiction that reads like fiction.

EMPTY MANSIONS is a modern d...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Ravelry Knitters: July Group Read - Empty Mansions 9 45 Jul 20, 2014 09:25AM  
Photos in Empty Mansions 7 93 Jul 18, 2014 07:34PM  
Auction Catalog Online 1 13 Jun 12, 2014 08:15AM  
Here are the covers for Empty Mansions. What do you think? 5 56 Mar 18, 2014 02:05PM  
Articles on the settlement of the Clark estate case 2 50 Mar 18, 2014 02:03PM  
Huguette Clark's art is for sale 2 30 Feb 01, 2014 11:32AM  
New video on Huguette Clark 3 51 Jan 13, 2014 07:32AM  
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“Huguette was a quiet woman in a noisy time.” 6 likes
“WE CAME TO THIS STORY by separate paths, one of us by accident and one by birth.” 2 likes
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