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Tessie and Herman Oelrichs House (Rosecliff)

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1899–1901, McKim, Mead and White. Bellevue Ave. (near Marine Ave.)
  • Tessie and Herman Oelrichs House (Rosecliff)
  • Terrace
  • Entrance detail
  • Exterior detail
  • Ballroom
  • Salon fireplace

A site overlooking the cliff area and well planted by the previous owner with rosebushes gave this house its name. From Bellevue Avenue, it appears to be a relatively compact, one-story structure, smaller than the “cottages” which preceded it nearby on Ochre Point. Its composition and decorative scheme were suggested by the seventeenth-century classicism of Jules Hardouin-Mansart's Grand Trianon at Versailles; perhaps this refined source also influenced McKim, Mead and White's use of an unusual exterior surfacing—white glazed terracotta—giving Rosecliff its gleaming appearance as a pristine pleasure pavilion.

On the approach to the entry arch at the south end, the first story, wrapped in its cadence of piers, columns, and carved swag, dominates the facade. It appears to be surmounted by a smaller attic story and low balustrade; but in fact, the architects hid three stories (a public first level, a bedroom level, and the upper servants' quarters) behind the uniform rhythms and horizontality of their most decorative Newport facade.

The H-shaped plan frames a front garden and a seaward-facing terrace with projecting wings. The connecting segment contains Newport's largest ballroom, some 40 by 72 feet. In his interior design, White staged a scene of social theatricality for the owners and their guests unique even for Newport. The grand ballroom is reached through an ornate hall. There, those arriving from outside could see Tessie Oelrichs make a dramatic entrance down one side of the heart-shaped staircase, which gracefully cascades from the second floor and spreads like the train of an elaborate gown as it spills toward the ballroom.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Tessie and Herman Oelrichs House (Rosecliff)", [Newport, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 571-572.

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