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

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  25,301 Ratings  ·  2,883 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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Kathrine Holyoak The Clark mansion in Butte, Montana still stands as well. It is currently a bed and breakfast named Copper King Mansion which is open to the public…moreThe Clark mansion in Butte, Montana still stands as well. It is currently a bed and breakfast named Copper King Mansion which is open to the public with guided daily tours. I found the home first and this book second. It'd be the ultimate book club field trip to hold your discussion while staying overnight in Hugette's Montana bedroom.(less)

Community Reviews

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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 dea
Oct 06, 2013 Kathrina rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs-bios, history
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
Jan 04, 2017 Julie rated it really liked it
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 unique experience.

The author describes how he first came acro
Aug 16, 2016 Frances rated it really liked it
The rich are different, but the super rich are very much in a class of their own and W.A. 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 U.S. senator is astonishing. By 1895 he owned the most expensive 121-room mansion in New York on Fifth Avenue, and once completed it was more expensive than Rockefeller and Car ...more
David Stone
Aug 31, 2013 David Stone rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 06, 2013 Dem rated it really liked it
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
Sep 08, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carol by: denise gibbs
Shelves: non-fiction
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 indulge.

My 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 th
Nancy Oakes
Sep 12, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
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
Glenn Sumi
Apr 17, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
So What Would You Do With $300 Million?

An old woman worth more than $300 million spends her time collecting dolls, watching cartoons and paying the upkeep on cavernous mansions from New York and Connecticut to California that remain echoingly empty. Although she’s in good health, she lives the final two decades of her life secluded in a New York City hospital room, communicating to a few friends by phone. Most people don't know she's in a hospital. She pays for things by quickly selling off pric
What an interesting biography!

Imagine being a millionaire several times over and rather than staying in one of your mansions, or in your huge beachfront property, you choose to stay in a small private room in a hospital for nearly two decades instead.

Empty Mansions goes into the life of Huguette Clark and her family. Her father created his huge wealth mining copper and other things, (he seemed to have the Midas touch), but later in life he fell into politics and then scandal.

Take a peak at
Nov 16, 2014 Misfit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating book, and a big thanks for Barb for reviewing it and bringing it back to my attention. Spotted it on the feeds, library had Kindle edition and I was engrossed as soon as I downloaded it.

"The only ones more affluent at Clark’s death during the Roaring Twenties were the oilman John D. Rockefeller, the automobile maker Henry Ford, the banking Mellon brothers, and Cyrus H. K. Curtis, publisher of The Ladies’ Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post. To put it another way, W.A.
Aug 16, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 04, 2017 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting story although it did get a bit long (in my opinion). It amazed me how much money this family had. I loved learning how W.A. Clark made his fortune (he did not inherit anything). He lead a very interesting life. His daughter was a very odd lady. She owned amazing homes she either hadn't been in for over 40 years or never at all. (If you google them you will see how beautiful they are). Obviously, no one really knew her very well in her adult life as lived pretty much a ...more
Oct 18, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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.
Sep 22, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it
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
Dec 20, 2013 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 06, 2013 Toni rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
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
Dec 12, 2013 Bayneeta rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
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.
Jan 13, 2014 Courtney rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-stories
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
Jul 09, 2013 Nancy rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 02, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
This book encompasses mysteries, legal battles, history lessons and character studies, as well as displaying a shocking array of world treasures. Huguette Clark received one fifth of her father, W.A. Clark's, immense fortune. Once considered the most wealthy man in the United States, the rest of his fortune was split between his four children from a previous marraige. After the passing of her sister, father and mother, Huguette lived a reclusive life. Eventually she would enter a hospital for ca ...more
Cathrine ☯
Apr 23, 2015 Cathrine ☯ rated it really liked it
I lived in Santa Barbara California for 18 years and never heard about Bellosguardo, one of Huguette Clark's empty mansions now valued at close to one hundred million dollars, nor did I know the accompanying bird refuge next to the zoo was a gift to the city in honor of her deceased sister. I had toured Hearst Castle in San Simeon many times. We all knew about the Hearst family and their wealth. One of the fascinating details in regard to Mr. Clark, her father and a United States senator, is tha ...more
Oct 04, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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.
Amelia Gremelspacher
Sep 09, 2013 Amelia Gremelspacher rated it really liked it
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
Laurie Notaro
Aug 07, 2014 Laurie Notaro rated it it was amazing
Gobbled this book up in two days. Fascinating, curious and engaging. I love, love, loved it. Points of interest: I honeymooned at the Clark mansion in Butte, Montana, The Copper King, and it was creepy, awesome and unforgettable; proud to say that my long-time editor at Random House, Pamela Cannon, was the editor for this book; and I once worked for an heiress that had just as much money as Huguette and was just about as insane. She bought 1,000 year-old canoes carved by Inuits and used them as ...more

Thank you to my friend Linsey for recommending this to me, otherwise I never would have picked it up.

I listened to the audio book version, read by Kimberly Farr, which was very well-done, the reader does a lovely impersonation of Huguette Clark and a not so flattering one of Huguette's nurse, Hadassah Peri.

An added benefit to the audio book is the publishers have included the actual recordings of Huguette's conversations with cousin and co-author Paul Clark Newell. But I still had to borrow th
 PuMbA's MoMmy*•.♥.•*
Huguette Clark was a mysterious woman in death as she was in life. The estimated net worth of her estate at one point was said to be 300 million. Why then would a woman who had so much riches choose to live the last years of her life in a hospital room? This was one of the questions many people asked after her death. As you read about Huguette and her life you start to realize that she was not the type of person most people think of when they envision a millionaire heiress.

She loved to collect
Jun 27, 2013 Lyn rated it it was amazing
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
Bonita Braun
Dec 11, 2013 Bonita Braun rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Bonita by: Other book reviews at Amazon
Well researched but not worth reading. The story of a wealthy heiress with no personality/individuality and certainly no life. The idea of mansions being kept in perfect repair for 50 plus years is intriguing but we get no look at them or much insight. Sad,sad,sad story. The authors are hesitant to pass judgement on anyone. Investigation into her nurse/housekeeper would have been helpful. Hadassah struck me as perhaps competent and caring, but also opportunistic and avaricious.

The one laugh I g
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“Huguette was a quiet woman in a noisy time.” 6 likes
“Though the platitude—money can’t buy happiness—may be comforting to those who are less than well heeled, great wealth doesn’t ensure sadness either.” 4 likes
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