Huguette Clark in 1930
Associated Press
This is the last known photo of Huguette Clark, taken 80 years ago. She has hidden away in a New York hospital room for at least the past 22 years. This photo was made on Aug. 11, 1930, the day of her divorce, in Reno, Nev.
Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of msnbc.com
By Bill Dedman Investigative reporter
NBC News
updated 9/8/2010 4:31:20 PM ET 2010-09-08T20:31:20

Msnbc.com readers have prompted New York City officials to start checking on the welfare of Huguette Clark, the reclusive 104-year-old heiress with three empty mansions.

The inquiry into her well-being is in addition to a criminal investigation into the handling of Clark's finances launched by the Manhattan district attorney.

After msnbc.com's series of reports last week on the men handling Huguette Clark's half-billion-dollar fortune, at least 140 readers contacted Adult Protective Services, according to Rima Rivera, director of the agency's central intake unit.

"Your readers contacted us from all over the country," Rivera said. "They were saying: 'You'd better do something. This happened to my grandmother. Don't let it happen to this woman.'"

Image: Wallace Bock
Collier, Halpern, Newberg, Nolletti & Bock
Wallace "Wally" Bock, attorney for Huguette Clark. He and accountant Irving H. Kamsler have owned property together that was signed over to them by an elderly colleague and client.

Msnbc.com reported last week that Clark's attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client after his last will and testament was revised six times. Attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock arranged to quietly sell Clark's Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million, and one of her three luxury homes is on the market now for $24 million. Msnbc.com also revealed that her accountant, Irving H. Kamsler, has a criminal conviction for sending pornography to underage girls in an AOL chat room, according to court records.

  1. Part 1
    1. Copper King Mansion B&B
      At 104, mysterious heiress is alone now
  2. Part 2
    1. Who is watching reclusive heiress's millions?

      Reclusive heiress's assets are sold by two advisers, one an accountant with a felony conviction. Another elderly client signed over his property to the same accountant and attorney.

  3. More
    1. Investigated pair still controls heiress's wealth
    2. Generosity of an heiress: 4 homes for the nurse
    3. A PDF file for printing the photos
    4. Clark family notes and sources
    5. Contact the author

'Income doesn't matter'
On Monday, the agency reached out to Clark's distant relatives and the hospital where she lives. A caseworker will try to get permission to visit her in the hospital and to gather other information, Rivera said.

If that permission isn't granted, the agency could then seek a court order. The agency will evaluate her physical and mental condition and living conditions, and look for signs of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. Adult Protective Services will work with the district attorney to share information, she said.

Irving H. Kamsler
Nassau County District Attorney
A booking photo from the arrest of Huguette Clark's accountant, Irving H. Kamsler, charged with attempting to distribute indecent material to 13- and 15-year-old girls online. He pleaded guilty in 2008 and remains a registered sex offender.
"The person's income doesn't matter," Rivera said. "Whether you're broken and homeless or you have a billion dollars, we must do what we can to make sure the elderly are not exploited."

A third front could be opened if someone asks a court to appoint a guardian to handle Clark's affairs. That person would usually be a relative, friend or financial institution, but anyone can make the request, lawyers who specialize in guardianship cases said.

Criminal investigation
The criminal inquiry is being conducted by the Elder Abuse Unit of the New York County District Attorney's Office, which investigated the finances of Brooke Astor, the society matron and heiress whose son and attorney were convicted in 2009 of siphoning $10 million from her. Astor died in 2007 at age 105, with an estate worth $131 million.

Huguette Clark's wealth is said to be roughly four times Astor's, or about $500 million. It is not known whether Clark, who has lived in New York City hospitals for at least 22 years and has no children, has signed a will.

Image: Brooke Astor
Serge J-F. Levy  /  AP file
A 1997 photo of Brooke Astor, whose son and attorney were accused of exploiting her declining mental state to plunder her estate. Now the same investigators are looking into Huguette Clark's finances.

New York City detectives assigned to the office of DA Cyrus Vance Jr. are investigating the case, including the actions of Bock and Kamsler, the attorney and accountant, who control Clark's wealth and access to her hospital room.

A spokeswoman for Vance, Erin Duggan, said the office has a policy of not confirming whether an investigation is being conducted. Msnbc.com confirmed independently that detectives are making inquiries.

Empty mansions
Clark's assets include more than $200 million in three unoccupied luxury homes:

• A $100 million Pacific cliffside estate on 23 acres in Santa Barbara, Calif. She hasn't visited it in at least 50 years.

• A country house on 52 acres in New Canaan, Conn., on the market now for $24 million. She expanded the house in 1952 but never moved in.

• A massive apartment in New York City, 907 Fifth Ave. at 72nd Street, the largest apartment on that storied avenue overlooking Central Park. Her 42 rooms on two floors occupy 15,000 square feet. A real estate agent who has sold apartments in that building values Clark's at roughly $100 million. She hasn't been seen here in about 22 years.

In a series of stories since February, msnbc.com has reported that Huguette Clark has lived alone, secluding herself in her home with her French dolls and dollhouses for the past half-century and has been in hospital rooms in New York City, though her health was said to be good.

Msnbc.com also disclosed:

• Bock, 78, arranged to sell the $6 million Stradivarius violin that her mother gave her for her 50th birthday, according to the dealer who handled the sale. The buyer signed a confidentiality agreement when Clark was 95 years old, agreeing not to disclose who sold the violin for at least 10 years.

• Kamsler, 63, pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending pornography to underage girls in an AOL chat room, according to court records. He was using the AOL handle IRV1040 (as in his first name, Irving, and the IRS 1040 tax form). He also, like his client Clark, had a federal tax lien for unpaid taxes.

• The attorney and the accountant became owners of property that was signed over to them by another elderly client in New York City, according to court records. The man, who was Bock's law partner, suffered from dementia in his later years, according to his goddaughter and neighbors. Before he died, he signed over to Bock and Kamsler his New York apartment in the Dorchester, at 57th Street near Park Avenue, as well as his Mercedes and $200,000 — in addition to the $380,000 in fees they collected for managing his $4 million estate.

• Bock and Kamsler arranged to sell Clark's Renoir in 2003 for $23.5 million. Her country home in New Canaan, Conn., is on the market for $24 million.

• Access to her is tightly controlled. Relatives who tried to visit her New York hospital room have been turned away by the attorney, though one persistent half-great-niece got as far as the room where Clark was asleep. (We are not revealing the name of the hospital.)

• Kamsler is said to visit regularly. Bock told msnbc.com in January that he speaks with her frequently by phone and has met her only twice — the first of her seven attorneys to meet her face to face.

Bock and Kamsler have declined to answer questions about any of their actions.

Update: Bock told the TODAY Show that he "denies all allegations," but would not say more.

A famous father
Huguette ("u-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), a copper miner and U.S. senator who in his time was said to be neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller for the title of richest American. Clark made a fortune in Montana copper, banks and railroads, collected a museum full of art from Europe, and owned the land that would become Las Vegas, where Clark County is named for him.

Image: Huguette Clark around 1910.
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
Huguette Clark with one of her dolls around 1910. "Her closest companions have always been her dolls," said her friend Suzanne Pierre.
William Andrews Clark was caught in a bribery scandal during a campaign for the U.S. Senate — he was said to describe the Montana legislators this way: "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale." Though the Senate refused to seat him, he was re-elected and served one term, from 1901 to 1907, as a Democrat from Montana. During that term the widower Clark announced that he had secretly been married in Paris and had a child with his former ward, Anna, 39 years his junior. ("THEY'RE MARRIED AND HAVE A BABY," thundered one headline.) A second daughter, Huguette, was born in 1906. Her sister died at age 16, leaving her the only surviving child of this second marriage.

When Sen. Clark died in 1925, he left a gaudy 121-room house then at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street and a fortune divided among Anna, Huguette and four adult children from his first marriage. Anna died in 1963, leaving her share to Huguette.

Huguette Clark is said by relatives to be quite alert, or she was the last time anyone besides her attorney and accountant was able to speak with her by phone, some years back.

The district attorney's office has put greater emphasis on investigating and preventing crimes against the elderly since Vance, son of the former U.S. secretary of state, took office in January. The Elder Abuse Unit has been expanded under the direction of an experienced prosecutor, Elizabeth Loewy, who headed the Astor case.

Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild
Le Beau Château, Huguette Clark's country home in New Canaan, Conn., is on the market at $24 million. Huguette bought it in 1952, expanded it, and never moved in.

A previous client
Bock drew up the wills for one of his law partners, Donald Wallace, who died in 2002 at age 76. Wallace's will — the sixth one drawn up by Bock — left his apartment to Bock and Kamsler, gave each man $100,000 and left Kamsler his Mercedes sedan. Though the co-op board refused to hand over the apartment to the two men, a change to Wallace's will left it to the attorney and accountant. In his final days, when according to his goddaughter and a neighbor he had severe dementia, Wallace was subletting his own apartment from his attorney and accountant, according to probate records in the Surrogate's Court in New York City. (You can read the documents in this PDF file.)

Bock wrote in court documents, "At no time did I ever request or suggest, directly or by implication, to DLW that he provide for me in his will," referring to Donald L. Wallace. "On the contrary, I said to him that he was being overly generous, that he had done enough for me with various gifts given over the years. He insisted however, stating that the people he named as beneficiaries in his Will were 'his family' and that is what he wanted to do."

The arrest

Image: Huguette Clark
Copper King Mansion Bed And Breakfast, Butte, Mont.
Huguette Clark, heiress to a copper fortune, has been secluded for decades. She just turned 104 in a New York hospital.
Her accountant, Kamsler, was arrested on Sept. 6, 2007, in Nassau County on Long Island in an Internet sex sting. The indictment alleged that in 2005 and 2007 he had tried to entice 13- and 15-year-old girls in an AOL chatroom to meet with him, sending them pornography and describing touching their private areas. These girls turned out to be police officers. Police said Kamsler was using the AOL handle IRV1040 (as in his first name, Irving, and the IRS 1040 tax return).

Kamsler told police that he thought he was in an adult chatroom and was just "pretending" with women that they were girls. He pleaded guilty in October 2008 to all the charges: six counts of attempting to disseminate indecent material to minors in the first degree and nine counts of attempting to endanger the welfare of a child. He got no jail time, just five years of probation, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and sex-offender restrictions.

IRS difficulties
Property records in New York show Kamsler also had trouble with the IRS, with a tax lien in 2003 for $18,853, paid off three months later. Huguette Clark has had her own tax liens — four times the IRS has filed to collect taxes from her.

The Stradivarius
In 2001, Clark's Stradivarius violin was sold. It is one of the most famous, known as La Pucelle, or The Virgin, because its works were unopened for more than a century after it was made by Antonio Stradivari in 1709. Huguette Clark's mother, Anna Eugenia La Chappelle Clark, gave it to her for a 50th birthday present in 1956.

Stradivari violin La Pucelle
Greg Gilbert  /  The Seattle Times
One of the finest violins made by Antonio Stradivari, La Pucelle, or The Virgin, was locked away in Huguette Clark's New York apartment for nearly 50 years, after her mother gave it to her as a birthday present. Her attorney arranged to sell it in 2001 for $6 million. The tailpiece depicts Joan of Arc, the virgin warrior.

The premier violin dealer Charles Beare described it as "almost certainly the finest Stradivari that's not in a museum and certainly the best-preserved."

The first draft of the confidentiality agreement proposed by Bock was so onerous, Beare said, that it would forbid the purchaser from revealing that he owned the violin, much less who he bought it from, or even the seller's gender. He could not play it in the presence of anyone, ever.

Beare said the buyer who paid $6 million, retired software developer David Fulton, balked at those terms but agreed to a 10-year-ban on revealing the previous owner. Fulton would not comment to msnbc.com, citing the confidentiality agreement, which runs until early 2011.

The Renoir
In 2003, the year she turned 97, one of Huguette Clark's paintings was sold by Sotheby's for $23.5 million. Reports at the time said the painting came from "the estate of Huguette Clark," though she was alive.

No comment
Neither Bock nor Kamsler would respond to questions about these incidents.

Painting by Renoir, "In the Roses"
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir painted "In the Roses" in 1882. Huguette Clark's attorney sold it for her in 2003 through Sotheby's for $23.5 million. The buyer was Steve Wynn, the developer of casinos in Las Vegas — where the land once was owned by Huguette Clark's father.

Bock, in an interview early this year at the Lexington Avenue office of the law firm of Collier, Halpern, Newberg, Nolletti & Bock, would say only that Huguette was quite a beauty in her day, that he talks to her regularly on the phone and that her mind is clear though her eyesight and hearing have dimmed with age. He also said he would not pass on to her a request for an interview and that she doesn't care about publicity or reputation. He threatened to get a judge to stop msnbc.com from printing a word about his client.

---

Related content
More links for "The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal and mystery":

All of msnbc.com's reports on Huguette Clark are gathered here.

Part one of the investigative report, At 104, mysterious heiress is alone now

Part two, Who is watching Huguette's millions?

The photo narrative on Huguette Clark and her empty mansions (on this page)

A PDF file for printing the photos

Notes and sources on the Clark family

Contact the author

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Is wealthy heiress a victim of elder abuse?

  1. Transcript of: Is wealthy heiress a victim of elder abuse?

    ANN CURRY, co-host: A few weeks back we brought you the story of Huguette Clark , a wealthy heiress whose lavish mansions sit empty. She's now living in a New York City hospital. But some of her closest advisers are under investigation. NBC 's Jeff Rossen is now joining us with details on this. Jeff , good morning.

    JEFF ROSSEN reporting: Hi , Ann , good morning to you. She's one of the richest women in America and one of the most secretive, too. Huguette Clark is now 104 years old and lives like a recluse. Now investigators want to know if her inner circle is stealing her money. Who wouldn't be happy with just one mansion? Huguette Clark owns three, all perfectly manicured, all sit empty. This one in Santa Barbara hugs the California coast. Its value over $100 million. Her estate in Connecticut worth over 20 million. It's empty. And Huguette Clark also owns the largest apartment on New York 's prestigious Fifth Avenue . Forty-two rooms worth over $100 million. It's empty, too. According to msnbc.com , Clark hasn't seen any of them in over 20 years. In fact, she's been living in seclusion here, inside a Manhattan hospital room, surrounded by her French doll collection. Clark 's lifestyle is so mysterious, this is the last known picture ever taken of her in 1930 . Today at 104 years old, Huguette Clark 's personal worth is an estimated half a billion dollars. Bill Dedman is msnbc.com 's investigative reporter.

    BILL DEDMAN reporting: What we had was a feature story about an elderly woman with a lot of money and mysterious empty mansions. But now we have an investigation.

    ROSSEN: An investigation into these two men, Huguette Clark 's gatekeepers and closest advisers, her lawyer, Wally Bock , and her accountant, Irving Kamsler , a convicted felon who in 2008 plead guilty to attempting to send pornography to teenage girls. Since Huguette Clark never had any children, these two men reportedly control everything, including her fortune and the tightly guarded access to her hospital room.

    DEDMAN: The Manhattan district attorney is looking into how her finances have been handled and the actions of her attorney and her accountant, who control her wealth and access to her in her hospital room.

    ROSSEN: According to msnbc.com , Wally Bock quietly arranged to sell Clark 's rare Stradivarius violin for $6 million, and her Renoir painting for 23.5 million. And now the Web site reports the lawyer and the accountant are trying to sell her Connecticut estate for $24 million. So where's the money going?

    Mr. DAN ABRAMS (NBC News Chief Legal Analyst): An investigation doesn't necessarily mean there was any wrongdoing. But it does mean that the district attorneys are, at the least, a little suspicious. When you've got someone who's this age, who's this reclusive, with this few relatives, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what is an accountant or a lawyer authorized to do or not do.

    ROSSEN: Msnbc.com reports for 104 years old, Huguette Clark is awake and alert. But it's unclear if she has a will.

    DEDMAN: What we have here is a kindly woman who's secluded herself in her apartment, and then in a hospital room, and therefore has made herself vulnerable to being kept out of the loop . Maybe she doesn't have all the information about what's been done with her money.

    ROSSEN: Money she inherited from her wealthy father. Now with her mansions empty, no apparent heirs, and her handlers under investigation, Huguette Clark 's life is as mysterious today as it was a century ago. One of the accusations here, that the lawyer and the accountant won't even let Clark 's own relatives visit her in the hospital. Now I spoke with the lawyer, Wally Bock , by phone, he denies any wrongdoing but won't comment on anything else. And we should also mention that we called the accountant but never heard back from him.

Photos: The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal, mystery

loading photos...
  1. By Bill Dedman, NBC News. Why are the mansions of one of America’s wealthiest women sitting vacant? Huguette Clark's father, the copper king and "Paris millionaire senator," was the second richest American — or first, neck and neck with Rockefeller. Huguette, 103, has no children. Where is she? And what will become of her fortune?

    Click on the photo to continue. (W.A. Clark Memorial Library) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. She doesn't live here. The mysterious Clark estate in Santa Barbara, Calif., has been empty since 1963. Named Bellosguardo for its "beautiful view" of the Pacific, it's worth more than $100 million, a 21,666-square-foot house on 23 acres. Caretakers have labored at the Clark estate for generations — and not met Huguette Clark.

    Click on the photo to continue. (John L. Wiley, http://flickr.com/photos/jw4pix/) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She also doesn't live here. In 1951, Huguette Clark bought this home in New Canaan, Conn. She named it Le Beau Château, or "beautiful country house." And she never spent a night in it. Now her 13,459-square-foot home, with 52 wooded acres, is for sale for $24 million, marked down from $34 million. Taxes are $161,000 a year.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. And she doesn't seem to live here, though her belongings are here. The largest spread on New York's Fifth Avenue is her three apartments at 72nd Street overlooking Central Park. She has 42 rooms and 15,000 square feet. That's all the 8th floor and half the 12th, worth more than $50 million. The building staff have seen Huguette ("u-GET") few times in 30 years.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Where did such wealth come from? It started with hard work, ingenuity and unfettered ambition. One of these miners in 1863 in Bannack, Mont., would, by the end of the century, own banks, railroads, timber, newspapers, sugar, coffee, oil, gold, silver, copper — seemingly unending veins of copper. He's on the right, William Andrews Clark, Huguette's father.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Newell family photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Born in a log cabin in Pennsylvania in 1839, of Scotch-Irish and French Huguenot immigrants, Clark stood 5 feet 8½, with fastidiously tended whiskers, unruly red hair, and cold blue eyes. A contemporary wrote, "There is craft in his stereotyped smile and icicles in his handshake. He is about as magnetic as last year's bird's nest."

    Click on the photo to continue. ("The Clarks: An American Phenomenon," 1941) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. After two years panning for gold, Clark turned to selling goods he hauled by wagon through the Rockies. He bought eggs at 20 cents a dozen, marketing them for $3 a dozen to miners for a brandy eggnog called Tom and Jerry. He took a year back East to study geology at Columbia University, then returned to Montana, to Butte's "Richest Hill on Earth."

    (Lewis Pub. Co. / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Clark made his greatest fortune in the Southwest. His United Verde copper mine, in Jerome, Ariz., yielded a profit of $400,000 a month, or in today's dollars, $10 million a month. The trading post of Las Vegas was a stop on his rail line. Here he speaks to a crowd in Las Vegas from his Pullman car in 1905. Las Vegas today is in Clark County, named for him.

    (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Libraries, Special Collections) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Clark's desire was a title: Senator Clark. Montana denied him time after time, a battle called the War of the Copper Kings. Who knows how a feud flared between Democrats: Marcus Daly, left, a Catholic who loved racehorses, and Clark, a Presbyterian who loved art. Legislators picked senators; newspapers made legislators; all were for sale.

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. An aide said, "We'll put the old man in the Senate, or the poorhouse." Clark was elected in 1899, but $1,000 bills turned up in envelopes. He had to resign. Clark said publicly, "I propose to leave to my children a legacy, worth more than gold, that of an unblemished name." Privately he said, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Clark's men tried one more audacity: On the day he resigned, they tricked the governor into traveling outside Montana. His lieutenant filled the vacancy — with Clark! When the governor returned, again Clark was out. Finally, he was elected in 1901. Though he retired after one term, for the rest of his life he insisted on being "Senator Clark."

    (Clinedinst / The National Magazine, 1905) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Mark Twain had a few other names for Senator Clark. "He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs."

    (Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Clark's first wife, Kate, died in 1893, leaving him four grown children. In 1904, while in the Senate, Clark announced that he had taken a second wife in France three years earlier, and that the couple already had a 2-year-old daughter. At the time of the supposed marriage, he was 62, and wife Anna was 23. No proof of the wedding date has been found.

    (The Butte Miner) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. His new wife, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle, had been Clark's ward. She came to him as a teenager for support. Clark sent her from Butte to boarding school, then to Paris, where she studied the harp. He visited by steamship. They had two daughters: Andrée, born in 1902 in Spain, and Huguette in 1906 in Paris, where they lived with Anna.

    (The Butte Miner) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. "THEY'RE MARRIED AND HAVE A BABY," thundered Daly's opposition paper. All this was news to Clark's children from his first marriage, who were older than his young wife. One older daughter wrote that, while she was "greatly grieved and dreadfully disappointed, we must all stand by our dear father."

    (The Anaconda Standard) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. After he left the Senate, Clark moved his young wife and daughters into this Beaux-Arts house he built at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street in New York. It had 121 rooms, four art galleries, Turkish baths, a vaulted rotunda 36 feet high, and its own railroad line to bring in coal. All for a family of four. It was known as "Clark's Folly."

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Clark spent as much as $7 million on the house, about three times what it would later cost to build Yankee Stadium. The mansion's treasures included this Louis XVI salon, a marble statue of Eve by Rodin, oak ceilings from Sherwood Forest, and the grandest American collection of European paintings, lace and tapestries.

    (Salon Doré, 1770, on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Clark hosted organ recitals, so his neighbors on Millionaire's Row could see his paintings by Degas, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian, van Dyck, Gainsborough, Cazin, Rousseau. Once his chosen artworks were installed in the house, Clark bought few more. If he acquired any more paintings, he wrote, he would have to remove something.

    (Edgar Degas, "The Dance Class," 1873, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Writer Wallace Irwin set it all to verse: "Senator Copper of Tonopah Ditch made a clean billion in minin' and sich. Hiked for New York, where his money he blew, bildin' a palace on Fift' Avenoo. 'How,' says the Senator, 'kin I look proudest? Build me a house that'll holler the loudest. None of your slab-sided, plain mossyleums! Gimme the treasures of art ...

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. ... an' museums! Build it new-fangled, scalloped and angled, fine like a weddin' cake garnished with pills. Gents, do your duty, trot out your beauty. Gimme my money's worth, I'll pay the bills.' Pillars Ionic, eaves Babylonic, doors cut in scallops resemblin' a shell. Roof was Egyptian, gables caniptian. Whole grand effect when completed was — hell."

    (One of four galleries in the Clark mansion, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Clark's wife was rarely seen in public. He wrote of Anna, "Mrs. Clark did not care for social distinction, nor the obligations that would entail upon my public life." In 1912, former Senator Clark, 73, and Anna, 34, walked in the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue with Andrée, 9. Huguette, not pictured, was just 5, starting her collection of dolls from France.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Clark family traveled often to Paris. A ship's registry from 1914 sets birthdates for the family: William Andrews Clark, age 75, Connellsville, Pa., Jan. 8, 1839; Anna E., age 36, Calumet, Mich., March 10, 1878; Andrée, age 12, Spain, Aug. 13, 1902; and Huguette, age 8, Paris, June 9, 1906. At home, they had 10 servants and a French chef.

    (Ship's registry from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Clark and daughters visit Columbia Gardens, which he built in Butte. It was about 1917. Andrée (left) would be about 15, and Huguette 11. Clark was 78. In 1919, a week before her 17th birthday, Andrée died of meningitis. "When her sister died, it left a hole in her life," said Huguette's great-half-nephew through the first marriage, Ian Devine.

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Through the '20s, society pages chronicled the debutante. "Miss Huguette Clark, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Andrews Clark of 962 Fifth Avenue, entertained a party of girl friends yesterday at Sherry's." At Miss Spence's School for Girls, she learned politics; Isadora Duncan taught interpretive dance. Skirts had to be 3 inches below the knee.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. William Andrews Clark died in his house on Fifth Avenue on March 2, 1925, at age 86, with his wife and children by his side. He lay in honor in his own gallery, as his paintings looked down. President Coolidge sent flowers. Clark's will called for a "decent and Christian burial in accordance with my condition in life, without undue pomp or ceremony."

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. He was entombed, along with his first wife and Andrée, in this mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His neighbors now are Woolworth, Macy, Pulitzer — all better remembered. Clark left $350,000 to a Clark orphans home; $100,000 each to Clark kindergarten and Clarkdale, Ariz.; $25,000 to Clark women's home; $2,500 to his butler.

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Clark had promised his daughters from his first marriage that Anna would not inherit the New York City mansion. It was sold in 1927 for less than half what it cost to build, and was torn down for apartments. Many other houses on Millionaire's Row fell, including the Astor and Vanderbilt palaces. The Gilded Age had passed.

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Anna got the mansion in Santa Barbara and $2.5 million. The rest of Clark's estate — as much as $300 million, or $3.6 billion today — went to Huguette and the four older children, who soon cashed out all his businesses. Huguette, 18, also received an allowance for three years: up to $90,000 a year, equal to $1 million today.

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. To the art, Clark attached conditions. The Metropolitan Museum could have it, if it kept it all in a separate Clark gallery forever. The Met declined. The art went to his second choice, the Corcoran in D.C. His wife and daughters paid for a Clark wing to hold it. The museum found that some of the paintings were misattributed; this Corot was authentic.

    (Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, "Repose," 1860, reworked 1865-1870, Corcoran Gallery of Art) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Clark bequeathed this advice as well: "The most essential elements of success in life are a purpose, increasing industry, temperate habits, scrupulous regard for one's word ... courteous manners, a generous regard for the rights of others, and, above all, integrity which admits of no qualification or variation."

    (Woodlawn Cemetery, Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Clark's descendants say he should be remembered as a Horatio Alger hero, a boy from a log cabin who conquered the worlds of finance, politics and art. "He lived exactly as he had planned," said André Baeyens, a great-grandson and diplomat, who wrote a book in French about the family. "He had a ferocious will to 'better my condition in life.'"

    (William Merritt Chase, 1915, Corcoran Gallery) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Bettering the condition of others wasn't his concern. Clark cut timber on federal land, and he benefitted from Arizona's "deportations" of union men who were kidnapped and driven out of state. Criticized for the sulfurous smoke and denuded landscape from his mines, he said, "Those who succeed us can well take care of themselves."

    (B.L. Singley, Butte, 1904 / Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. "Robber barons," some historians call the tycoons of that era. Others prefer "industrial statesmen." Unlike Carnegie or Rockefeller, Clark left little charity, only corruption and extravagance. "Life was good to William A. Clark," wrote historian Michael Malone, "but due to his own excesses, history has been unkind."

    (Harris & Ewing / Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. After her father's death, Huguette Clark practiced music and art; seven paintings she created were shown at the Corcoran. In 1928, she became engaged to William Gower, a law student whose father had worked for Clark. "No married couple ever started married life under more brilliant auspices," The New York Herald said.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. They were wed at Bellosguardo, the Clark home in Santa Barbara, on Aug. 18, 1928. The groom was 23, the bride 22. That year, Huguette donated $50,000 to the city to restore a salt pond behind the estate (top), called the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge. The couple moved into the elegant apartment on Fifth Avenue, with her mother in the same building.

    (Pictometry International) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. It lasted two years. To establish Nevada residency for a divorce in 1930, she moved to Reno for the summer with her mother and six servants. With the papers signed, mother and daughter took a cruise to Hawaii, then returned to the apartment in New York.

    (The Los Angeles Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. This is the last known photograph of Huguette, cornered by a photographer on the day of her divorce in August 1930. In 1931, an Irish nobleman denied reports that he would marry Huguette, then 24. She dropped her seat at the opera, and slipped from the society pages.

    (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. After her mother died in 1963, Huguette stopped visiting Bellosguardo. Vintage cars remained in the garage. Paintings stayed on the walls, depicting her sister, Andrée, living well past her death at age 16, on into middle age. A caretaker's stepdaughter, Joan Pollard, recalls, "It was immaculate, as if someone had just left for the weekend."

    (John L. Wiley, http://flickr.com/photos/jw4pix/) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. In 1964, Huguette gave 215 acres near Santa Barbara for Boy Scout camps. "These camps serve 4,000 kids a year," said Ron Walsh, a Scout executive. "She did a lot of people a lot of good through the years." In 2003, she sold this Renoir for $23.5 million. In 2007, the IRS placed a lien on her houses for $1 million in back taxes; it was paid quickly.

    ("In the Roses," Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1882) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Huguette is trying to sell Le Beau Château, in wealthy New Canaan, Conn., an hour from New York City. She bought it in 1951, and added the wing at top right. It has 22 rooms, nine bedrooms, nine baths, 11 fireplaces, a wine cellar, trunk room, elevator, and walk-in vault. It has sat empty for 57 years, so the kitchens need updating.

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. The only residents on 52 acres are the caretaker and his son, in twin cottages, and wild turkeys and deer. The property is silent except for a waterfall. Her attorney put it on the market in 2005 at $34 million, now $24 million. Neighbors in this corner of town include Harry Connick Jr., Paul Simon, Glenn Beck and Brian Williams.

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Why would someone buy such a retreat, and never use it, but hold on to it for half a century? Huguette's great-half-nephew, André Baeyens, said he was told by his mother that Huguette bought Le Beau Château as a sort of bomb shelter during the Cold War. "She wanted a place where she could get away from the horrors."

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. "Huguette has always led a sort of reclusive life," said nephew Devine. "I think everybody's respected that. She wasn't just sitting in a room herself all her life. She had a small group of friends, confidants and assistants, very small, probably fewer than five people. Her world was always very small; when Anna died, it just became smaller."

    (Le Beau Château, Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Now 103, she may be in a nursing home or hospital. Relatives say they don't know, and fear that flowers and letters are discarded before they reach her. Her attorney, Wallace Bock, won't say. Devine said, "I think various family members have asked Mr. Bock for information, and he's always very respectful of his client and doesn't wish to reveal anything."

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Facing Central Park with curtains drawn, her Fifth Avenue apartments contain her mother's harp and Huguette's French dollhouses. Only a few times in decades has the building's staff seen her, a thin woman retreating into the shadows. They say she's not there now. André Baeyens said of his aunt, "She's withdrawn from this world."

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Her eighth-floor apartments contain two galleries, seven bedrooms, rooms for nine servants. And her fortune? Where will it go? "The rest of the family would respect her decision," said nephew Devine. "But if she leaves it all to some sketchy cause that she has no close connection to, that would be of some concern."

    ("Apartments for the Affluent," 1975, by Andrew Alpern) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Her attorney, Bock, said her hearing and eyesight have diminished with age — after all, she'll be 104 in June — but her mind is clear, and he receives instructions from her frequently by phone. He said he would not pass along a request for an interview. "She's a very private person. She doesn't care about publicity or reputation."

    (Huguette Clark in France, "Le Sénateur Qui Aimait La France," Andre Baeyens) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Tracing the lives of William Andrews Clark and his Huguette, we are left with mysteries. What does she remember of "Papa"? Is she well cared for? What will she leave to the world? "It's hard to find out what the real story was," said nephew Devine. "No one is alive — except for Huguette."

    (The Copper King Mansion) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. W.A. Clark Memorial Library
    Above: Slideshow (48) The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal and mystery
  2. Hugnette Clark Gower
    AP
    Slideshow (17) Mystery heiress

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