, Mon, September 19, 2016
Photo courtesy of Emptymansionsbook.com.
Reclusive copper heiress Huguette M. Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104; in the years preceding and after her demise, obsessive followers of her story puzzled over her decision to remain in a small hospital room for the last 20 years of her life after having rarely left her apartment in the decades before. In this day of heiresses who run fashion companies and give house tours, Huguette Clark’s wealth and her retreat from the public eye—despite being by all accounts entirely lucid—have made her the target of endless fascination. But almost as fascinating are the storybook-grand properties that still stand as remnants of a gilded age long past and what remains of one of its biggest fortunes, barely touched and preserved as if in aspic until their recent acquisition by a new generation of magnates and heirs.
See more of Huguette Clark’s abandoned Gilded Age opulence
In her middle years, Clark liked to take “self portraits” of herself at home; here, in her Fifth Avenue apartment. Photo: Estate of Huguette Clark from EmptyMansionsBook.com
Copper heiress Huguette Clark did not live the life of luxury like so many other wealthy New Yorkers in her shoes. The famously reclusive figure died in 2011 at the age of 104, but instead of spending her last 20 years in her palatial, Gilded-Age co-op at 907 Fifth Avenue (which was filled to the brim with her doll, dollhouse, and art collections), she decided to live in a tiny hospital room at Beth Israel. Clark admitted herself to the hospital in 1991 for operable skin cancer, but then refused to leave.
According to Gothamist, her estate, “made up of nineteen of Huguette’s distant relatives, a private foundation in Huguette’s name, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.,” didn’t buy the hospital’s story and sued Beth Israel in 2013 for $95 million. The suit claimed the hospital spent millions of dollars on unnecessary medical care and by forming “fake friendships” with the heiress who was known for writing out checks on a whim to people she just met. However, last week, Manhattan Surrogate Court Justice Nora Anderson ruled that the statute of limitations had run out on the case.
More on the ruling and Huguette Clark’s legacy