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This, the only one surviving of several Richardson buildings in Newport, sits on property once part of the neighboring Château-sur-Mer and split off for the Wetmore daughter who married William Watts Sherman. Although it has long been known as the William Watts Sherman House, landowner evidence suggests that it would more appropriately be named for the original owner, Anne Wetmore Watts Sherman.
As early photographs show, Richardson's design originally stood, as did so many other residences from the period, on an open, landscaped plot with clear views to the bay and ocean to east and south. Although its vertical thrust is now compromised by changes on the north side of the building, the entire composition was ordered by the all-encompassing gable of the entry facade. This, crossed with the gabled block to its south, created the sense of two interlocked monumental masses, scaled down by an arrangement of textured bands. Random-set rustic stone, jigsawn shingle patterns, strips of multi-paned windows, smallscaled half timbering, and stucco work add variety to the simple gabled roofline. The choice of materials may show the strong revival influence of the English architect Norman Shaw, but Richardson blended this English historicism with Americanized elements such as sheltering gables, undercut porches, and exposed beam ends to express a sensibility much more organic than the French manner employed by his contemporary Hunt in projects of the same date, such as Château-sur-Mer. Some of the impressive interior features have always been attributed to Stanford White, who was then working in Richardson's office and would soon return to redecorate the library and dining room. The orchestration of the lavish exterior ornamentation may also have been informed by the young designer.
Between the most recent institutional addition, in brick, and the original Richardson gable is an enlargement by Dudley Newton that successfully adopts all of Richardson's detailing while altering the original mass into a more horizontal spread. The northernmost wing was added in the 1960s when the house was a Baptist home for the elderly; it is now owned by Salve Regina University and is not open to the public.
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