H-SANTA BARBARA

May 26, 2011 9:28 PM by Ariel Wesler

Mysterious heiress leaves behind $100 million estate in Santa Barbara

The death of a mysterious and reclusive 104-year-old heiress has many wondering what's to become of her $100 million mansion in Santa Barbara.

Huguette Clark died Tuesday at a New York City hospital, where she had been for more than 20 years. She inherited her fortune as the daughter of a Montana copper tycoon. Her Santa Barbara Mansion sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean, but she hasn't been there in decades.

Her estate is called Bellosguardo--Italian for "beautiful view." It's located on a bluff between the Santa Barbara Zoo and the Santa Barbara Cemetery. . .23 acres valued at $100 million.

"It's probably the most beautiful estate here in Santa Barbara at least along the beach," said Chris, who lives in Santa Barbara. At one time, Clark lived in the 22,000 square foot mansion. Growing up, a private rail car would bring the family there each winter. You can still catch a glimpse through the trees.

"Occasionally, there's some people sitting over here by the house. I don't even know if they belong to the house, but they're sitting out there," Chris said.

This is as close as we could get to Clark's 23 acre property and she really didn't get much closer either. In fact recent reports indicate she hasn't set foot here in at least 50 years.>

But to this day, it is still staffed and well-maintained. Dan has been the grounds keeper for the last three years. He wouldn't speak on camera but said hardly anybody visits the vacant property.

"I guess she was happy in New York and didn't have any reason to come out here," said Martin Peterson, who lives on Montecito and has been on the property once with his cousin.

In 1928, Clark donated land and 50 thousand dollars to create a 42-acre bird refuge near her estate. She named it after her sister who died of meningitis in 19-19. As for the estate itself, locals would like to see it preserved.

"It's a historical monument for Santa Barbara. Kind of like Hearst castle and they could give tours and make money and give part of it back to the city," Chris said.

Until then, what lies behind the gates will remain for many a bizarre mystery.

In the same way she spent most of her life, Huguette Clark was buried today in solitude. The ceremony was held at the family mausoleum in New York's Bronx district. The only people present were funeral home employees.

There is an investigation taking place, looking into Clark's finances. Her family claims she was kept isolated from almost everyone except her New York lawyer and her accountant. The family believes she may not have understood decision related to her fortune.

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