Barbara Woolworth Hutton’s life was a roller coaster of marriages, excesses, and tragedies. Her mother died when Hutton was only five, leaving the girl to be raised by her grandparents. When her grandmother died, she became the heir to the Woolworth fortune. By 1924, Hutton was the richest woman in the world. She was nicknamed the “Poor Little Rich Girl” after she threw a lavish but ill-timed debutante ball during the Great Depression. She had seven marriages, and her husbands included three princes, one count, one baron, an international playboy, and Cary Grant.
In the 1950s, Hutton decided to build a $2 million palace for her seventh husband, Prince Pierre Raymond Doan Vinh, an adopted member into the royal family of the Kingdom of Champasak. She chose the city of Jiutepec in the Mexican state of Morelos, where she began the construction of an enormous Japanese-style palace. She called it “Sumiya,” the namesake of an imperial courtesan’s house in Kyoto. In Mexico, Hutton’s Sumiya gazed upon the nearby volcano Popocatépetl, just as Japan’s Sumiya gazed upon Mount Fuji. The house boasts a zen sand garden and a Kabuki theater.
Hutton’s seventh marriage lasted two years. The couple divorced in 1966, and Hutton died in 1979 in Los Angeles. She is interred at the Woolworth family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in New York City. In 1993, Sumiya was converted into a luxury hotel with 163 rooms.
Know Before You Go
The site is a now a four-star luxury hotel away from the tourist areas of Cuernavaca.