During its heyday in 1908, the original Ocean House shared Rhode Island’s Watch Hill peninsula with six other grand hotels. By the end of the 20th century, it was the only one left standing.
Tired and decrepit, the structure was demolished in 2006, but not before its most authentic parts were salvaged for reuse. The new resort hotel that now stands in its stead—a partial replica of the 1868 landmark building—includes the original stone fireplace, front door balcony, fan light doors, reception desk, and oak elevator cab, as well as reclaimed Art Deco lighting fixtures, paneled ceilings, turned oak balustrades, and even a Greek Revival fireplace that’s been repurposed as a “disappearing bar.”
Many historic details that were damaged beyond repair were painstakingly replicated by Centerbrook Architects and Dimeo Construction with the use of old photos. Expressive modillions, cornices, columns, and railings recreate the grandeur of the past. So do iconic forms such as the mansard roof tower and circular dormer windows.
Although all exterior details within reach or close view were replicated in wood (per the original), many elements higher up incorporate synthetic materials, such as cement board and PVC trim, for durability and easier long-term maintenance, explains architect Jefferson Riley.
Now graced with 49 hotel rooms, 23 private residences, and a host of upscale amenities, the resurrected Ocean House is a fine homage to the past, but it also respects the neighborhood that grew up around it over nearly 150 years. At 156,000 square feet, the new building is a third larger than its predecessor, with two newly conceived wings; yet it appears smaller and more appropriately scaled, thanks to thoughtful massing. To achieve this effect, the new north wing curves away from the street so as not to block ocean views, and the south wing nestles into the bluff, curving parallel to the beach. It’s the best of old and new.