A Childhood of Enchantment

By Lynda Millner   |   September 28, 2021
Dana Newquist and Barbie Doran at the Bellosguardo lecture

Have you ever wondered who lived in the mysterious house on the hill above East Beach behind the wrought iron gate? A group of curious members of the Distinguished Speaker Group from the Santa Barbara Club came for lunch and to listen to Barbara (Barbie) Doran talk about her enchanted childhood behind the gates of Bellosguardo.

Barbie was born in Santa Barbara and raised at Bellosguardo, the estate of Anna E. and Huguette Clark, which her father managed for 50 years. She is one of the few people alive who knew both Anna and the elusive Huguette. You may remember in the papers a few years ago when Huguette died in a hospital at 104. She wasn’t sick, just old, eccentric, and rich, rich, rich. Her father was a copper king. She was able to maintain Bellosguardo even though she hadn’t visited or lived there in years (thousands of dollars every month). The Andree Clark Bird Refuge is named after her sister who died young.

Barbie and her folks lived in a house on the estate. She told of those carefree days when she had free run of the whole place – grounds, gardens, and all the nooks and crannies. As long as she came home by dark. Of course, there were 25 gardeners and various other help who always knew where she was.

She told of taunting Morton who was in charge of the fleet of cars and didn’t like children. He also wouldn’t think of driving any of the trucks. One time he was sent to school to pick up his charge, so he went in full chauffeur costume – brass buttons and high black boots, stopping at the front door with the Rolls-Royce door open. Needless to say, that was the last time.

Barbie has fond memories of being asked to tea after school at the big house.

Today, there is an equally mysterious board who runs the foundation, but no one seems to know what they are doing. Many of the furnishings and paintings are no longer in place. Much of it was auctioned off to Christie’s.

Barbie’s first book was Empty Mansions and her second is Inside the Gates of Bellosguardo – My Enchanted Childhood. You can contact her at bhd-alegre@cox.net.


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