Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


William Watts Sherman House

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Institution Name: Salve Regina University
Original/Historic Place Name: William Watts Sherman House
Location on Campus: Ruggles Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1874-1875original construction Richardson, Henry Hobson
1955-1965northeast extension added Unknown
1980sstonework exterior renovation, interior renovation Robinson Green Beretta
1995roof and exterior repair Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: none specified
Roof: asphalt shingle roof
ca. 1875private residence
ca. 1950other (home for the aged, owned by the Baptist Church)
ca. 2004-present (2007)other (educational conference facility)
ca. 2004-present (2007)residence hall

Significance: architecture, culture, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterWilliam Watts Sherman House (1972)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

This lovely, quaint home was built for William Watts Sherman, a New York financier, and his wife, Annie Wetmore, on property left to her by her father, William Shepard Westmore (who was the owner of Chateau-sur-Mer). A round Chinese Moon Gate, original to Chateau-sur-Mer, now links the two properties.

This roomy summer villa is one of 19th century America's architectural landmarks, as well as one of the greatest treasures of Salve Regina's campus. The fanciful shingle and stucco house with its massive chimneys and unifying broad gable was one of the first adaptations of the English Queen Anne country house of Richard Norman Shaw. Richardson combined medieval European, Renaissance English, and Colonial American elements into a composition that was both functional and decorative. He used natural materials such as stone and weathered wood shingles to visually integrate the house into its rural, coastal environment, and employed innovative sensuous textures of wood, tile, brick, and stone. The William Watts Sherman House is generally regarded as a stepping-off point for what later became known as the Shingle Style in American architecture.

Inside, Richardson replaced the traditional small entrance hall and series of rooms with an English living hall and flowing floor plan of useful open spaces. Charles Follen McKim and Stanford White, young architects working for Richardson, were inspired by the exciting design elements and carried them into their groundbreaking commissions in the 1880s. Interiors in the Jacobean revival style are original except for three redecorated rooms supervised by White. After Annie's death, William Watts Sherman married Sophia Augusta Brown and commissioned further renovations. The house later served as the Baptist Home of Rhode Island and during that time a utilitarian extension was added. The house was purchased by O.L. Pitts ca. 1980, who carried out renovations and leased it to the university. The university repurchased the property ca. 1982.

The house has been designated one of H.H. Richardson's masterpieces of domestic architecture. The grounds contain ancient beech and other specimens of trees and shrubs.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Harrington, Richard B. Ochre Point-Cliffs Historic District [including Salve Regina University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1975.

Moe, Richard. A Walking Tour of Salve Regina University. Pamphlet. [Newport, RI: Salve Regina University, n.d.].

Snell, Charles W. William Watts Sherman House [Salve Regina University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1970.

II. Location of other data:
University: Facilities Management Office
Government Offices

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