Inside Bellosguardo, a reclusive heiress' historic home

·2 min read

It's the talk of Santa Barbara: What has become of the hideaway on the hill?

Set high above 1,000 feet of coastline, Bellosguardo (Italian for "beautiful lookout") was purchased by copper magnate, Senator William Clark, in 1923. He died two years later.

The Italianate home on the 23-acre property was then torn down, and in 1933, Clark's widow, Anna, built the lavish, solid-concrete home that remains today.

Built in the 1930s, high above the Santa Barbara coast, the home made famous in the bestselling
Built in the 1930s, high above the Santa Barbara coast, the home made famous in the bestselling

One of the richest families of the Gilded Age, the Clarks - including daughter, Huguette - used the home solely as a summer getaway. The shy Huguette took to art, spending her sun-filled days painting.

An interior view of Bellosguardo.  / Credit: CBS News
An interior view of Bellosguardo. / Credit: CBS News

Mysteriously, the family last visited Bellosguardo in 1953. Ten years later, when Huguette inherited the 23-acre estate, she gave the staff instructions to never change a thing. Custom coverings protected the furniture, as the house sat empty for nearly 70 years, costing some $40,000 a month to maintain.

 / Credit: CBS News
/ Credit: CBS News

Huguette never returned to Santa Barbara. She spent much of her later life in a New York hospital, dying in 2011 at 104.

Since then, intrigue has grown over what will happen to Bellosguardo, after a New York Times bestselling book, "Empty Mansions."

Today, some of Huguette's paintings are on display in a new exhibit at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum; and later this year, the foundation that now runs Bellosguardo will open the doors for the first time for public tours, finally giving folks a chance to see "the beautiful lookout" for themselves.

 / Credit: CBS News
/ Credit: CBS News

See also:

A history of Santa BarbaraMontecito's El Fureidis, a Gilded Age treasure in Santa Barbara

   For more info:

Bellosguardo, Santa Barbara, Calif."Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune" by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. (Ballantine Books), in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via AmazonBarnes & Noble and Indiebound

"Huguette Marcelle Clark: A Portrait of the Artist" at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum (through June 12)

Story produced by Jon Carras. Editor: George Pozderec.

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