Reclusive Heiress Leaves Behind 5 Homes Worth $180 Million

Huguette Clark
Huguette Clark

When Huguette Clark died in spring 2011, she left behind a massive fortune, two conflicting wills, the mysterious aura of recluse, and some of New York City's choicest real estate. Now the fates of three apartments owned by the famed philanthropist, who was last photographed more than 80 years ago, are set to be settled: The residences are on sale for $55 million.

As perhaps befits the homes of a noted recluse, the apartments are said to be frozen in time, stuck somewhere around the Gilded Age and therefore in need of "significant work," according to the Daily Mail. Located at 907 Fifth Avenue, they include a total of 42 rooms and take up 17,000 square feet. Two of them together comprise the building's eighth floor, while the third occupies half of the 12th and top floors. Also among Clark's assets are a $100 million estate on the Pacific Coast in Santa Barbara, Calif., and a $24 million country house in New Canaan, Conn.

Clark's New York properties in the prewar limestone building are described in the listing brokers' description as "a diamond in the rough" -- presumably a polite reference to their eccentric provenance and need of renovation. They command views of Central Park, in particular the sailboat pond known as the Conservatory Water, near the statute of Alice in Wonderland.

Heiress Huguette Clark's Three Apartments Hit The Market

The New York Post reports that at the time of Clark's death, "real estate insiders gushed that her apartments ... could be worth $100 million." But the property is now appraised at $45 million to $60 million, since the apartments are unconnected and the building's co-op board has not yet decided whether the two eighth-floor flats can be combined. Brokers told the Post these two units could command a total of $20 million to $35 million if sold unjoined; combined, they'd be worth more.

Clark, who was born in Paris in 1906, was the second daughter of former U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, a Montana businessman involved in mining and railroads. Following his retirement, the family moved to a Fifth Avenue mansion that boasted 121 rooms. Huguette moved with her mother to 907 Fifth Avenue after the death of her father in 1925; they occupied the 12th floor, which had been marketed as "the finest apartment in the world." She was involved in music and art -- her mother gave her a Stradivarius violin for her birthday, and she exhibited seven paintings at Washington, D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1929 -- but grew increasingly suspicious that others, even relatives, were after her money. She is said to have lived in hospitals since leaving 907 Fifth Avenue in an ambulance in 1988.

Money from the sale of her Fifth Avenue properties will go first toward paying estate expenses; whatever remains will be claimed by the winner of the court battle over Clark's two conflicting wills, one of which would turn the Santa Barbara property into an art museum.