Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011

The Plumber vs. the Belcourt Estate

It was kind of like a fairy tale, albeit a very strange one. In 1974, Kevin Koellisch was hired to work on the plumbing at Belcourt Castle in Newport, R.I. Sixteen years later, when Koellisch was 38, Ruth Tinney, the 84-year-old heir to the estate, adopted the former plumber as her son, making him Kevin Tinney. Ruth died at the end of 1995, and a little over a year later, Kevin filed a lawsuit against Harle Tinney, the widow of Ruth's biological son, for a third of the estate valued at more than $3 million. Harle and Kevin duked it out in court for more than nine years, but in the end, Kevin walked away with a little over $10,000. When the decision was announced, Harle said that she would keep Belcourt Castle, which houses artworks and antiquities from 33 countries, as a museum. Today, Harle still owns the Belcourt estate, which holds history tours, ghost tours and even weddings.