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Ocean House

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1867–1868. 1903, enlarged. 58 Bluff Ave. (corner of Westerly Rd.)

Of all the wooden hotels built in the nineteenth century to accommodate Watch Hill vacationers, this and the small, much altered Narragansett Inn (1844) on Bay Street are all that remain. The history of Watch Hill as a resort begins, according to legend, with lighthouse keeper Jonathan Nash, who took in boarders and then resigned his post to build Narragansett Inn. His son George built a predecessor to this version of Ocean House. Originally this building was L-shaped, consisting of two three-and-one-half-story mansarded wings at right angles to a five-and-one-half-story tower block with hipped roof. Plain additions were made in two wings to the rear in 1906, when apparently the columned porch along the west and south was also redesigned. Later in the twentieth century, the south wing and its wrap-around porch were extended five bays farther to the east, with a hip-roofed fifth story above. As such structures go, beyond its veranda columns, bracketing under the eaves, and giant pilasters at the corners of its central tower, the hotel is both plain and crude. Still, the accumulated product of two or three lumberyards of boarding cannot fail to be impressive on such a spectacular site—especially when this vast ark must today stand for so many comparable establishments which once lined Rhode Island's shores. None other of this order of grandiosity has survived. [As this book goes to press in summer 2003, the building is threatened with extensive demolition to accommodate a swimming pool, covered parking beneath extensive terraces, and a string of cottages—all along the side overlooking the beach below.]

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Ocean House", [Westerly, 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, 407-408.

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