Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

Empty Mansions

By Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

  • Release Date: 2013-09-10
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Empty Mansions book review score

4 Score: 4 (From 651 Ratings)

Empty Mansions Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr. Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars


Janet Maslin, The New York Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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 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.

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User reviews about this book

  • Empty Mansions

    By Ohair1
    Empty mansions is a book of both delight and surprise. Once I started reading the book I couldn't put it down. Many of the people that have influenced our country and history have not been brought to light within our school system. Certainly it's interesting to learn about these people and how they shaped our country. This book is truly a delight!
  • Empty Mansions

    By Cservey
    What a beautifully grand lady. Thank you for this enthralling read. I simply couldn't put it down.
  • Peak into an Odd World

    By Fpiano
    An unusual but not sick world of an eccentric and very wealthy woman. The authors, like many of the people touched by Huguette, are respectful of her. The book does a good job with the life of a wealthy Guilded Age family through Huguette's long life until her death in 2011 at nearly age 105.
  • Amazing history I didn't know about!

    By Kimsuebarber
    This book had reviews that said it gave too many details...I loved this book and all the details included. I found it very fascinating! I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history.
  • Empty Mansions

    By BamaSue
    Interesting but trying to make an opinion on a reclusive wealthy individual.....not practical....still pure conjecture on anyone's part to do so......
  • Empty Mansions

    By NamesAlreadyTaken007
    BORING! 3500 pages too long. Don't waste your money or your time.
  • Good book bad ending

    By Hairmanehair
    Good book bad ending
  • Fabulous !!

    By Wildshan24
    A great read .
  • Empty Mansions

    By Sewsanne
  • Empty Mansions

    By Maretree

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