Future of heiress’s California estate in doubt

Tim Walker

Every weekend, along the wall at the west end of the Santa Barbara cemetery, people line up to peer over into the adjoining property.

The 23-acre Clark Estate is home to Bellosguardo: a 21,000 sq ft mansion in the classical French style, built in the 1930s but uninhabited since the 1950s. Locals have long been keen to get a glimpse inside and if the City of Santa Barbara has its way, they soon will.

Bellosguardo’s owner, copper heiress Huguette Clark, died in 2011 aged 104. The daughter of industrialist William Clark had lived in a New York hospital room for the past 20 years. After her death, her $300m (£188m) fortune was the subject of a legal dispute between surviving relatives and the carers, associates and charities named in her will.

It was her wish that Bellosguardo become a foundation for the arts. Yet the estate owes tax penalties of $18m, which could force the foundation to give up the house. Clark always refused to sell – even to the Shah of Iran, who enquired about buying it as he fled the 1979 revolution.

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