Mystery Lingers Over Fate of Huguette Clark's Bellosguardo

Aerial view of Huguette Clark's Bellosguardo estate
Aerial view of Huguette Clark's Bellosguardo estate
(photo: John Wiley)

Huguette Clark, the copper heiress who died at age 104 in 2011, left a will that envisioned her California mansion be turned into an arts nonprofit. Years later, the fate of the reclusive multimillionaire's 23-acre estate in Santa Barbara is still not clear. Her oceanside Bellosguardo estate reportedly was transferred from her home state of New York to a Santa Barbara nonprofit late last year, but there the complicated story stalls.

An Independent article in Dec. says that a judge's recent ruling indicates the IRS likely waived $16 million to $18 million in gift tax penalties owed by Clark at the time of her death. The tax issue was just one of many hurdles holding up Clark's $400 million estate.

The ruling sets "$45 million of Bellosguardo assets, which include the mansion itself, a large collection of paintings and sculptures, a $1.7 million doll collection, and $4.5 million in cash," reports the Indy, be transferred to the foundation.

A nonprofit board had already been set up by former Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider, “to open the Bellosguardo house and gardens to the public as a center that will foster and promote the arts.”

The 27-room mansion has been empty since the 1950s, and while it's been cared for, the property has an estimated $12 million in deferred maintenance, with some describing the place as a "money pit" and others lamenting logistics like the location's lack of parking for an arts center. 

Questions remain over whether Santa Barbara is now in a position to bring Bellosguardo back to life as a new arts venue overlooking the Pacific. 

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