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Huguette Clark's Gilded Age Time Capsule Estate in Santa Barbara Could Finally Be Opened to the Public

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Copper heiress Huguette Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104, having spent the last 22 years of her life in a New York hospital, even though she owned massive estates in Manhattan, Connecticut, and Santa Barbara. She hadn't visited the Santa Barbara property, Bellosguardo, since the 1950s, but she paid about $40,000 a month for a full staff to keep the place in peak shape. Only employees (and a couple others) have gone in or out in decades, but the house is eerily well-kept: the LA Times calls it "a still life of old California — with a 1933 Cadillac limousine parked in the garage — and a snapshot of a bygone era when the wealthy could effectively purchase a piece of the sea [bygone??] ... Lemon trees are pruned to the leaf, and 'you could eat off the floor,' the mayor said." And it's supposed to be opened to the public--Clark's will has finally been settled, and it establishes a nonprofit Bellosguardo Foundation to "foster and promote the arts," with the estate as its centerpiece.

It's not clear yet exactly what that will mean; ideas so far include a partnership with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, an open-air concert series "like the ones the Clarks used to host in the '40s," or an artist's residency program. (And all of this is assuming the tax issues are worked out--California is trying to get the IRS to waive some penalties, but if they're unsuccessful, the Foundation will have a very big bill to pay.)

The Clarks fell in love with the blufftop property after summering there in the 1920s; they bought the place, tore down the house, and built Bellosguardo: "23 rooms of French-infused elegance on an immaculate 23 acres." It supposedly has a 1,000-square-foot music room with double Steinways. Huguette visited often through the 1950s before becoming completely reclusive.
· A tangled estate of affairs for Santa Barbara's majestic Bellosguardo [LAT]