The Arts and Crafts movement's best showcase in Norfolk is this sprawling, Tudor Revival–Shingle Style residence in the city's Lochhaven neighborhood. Originally intended as a summer residence for William Sloane and his wife Florence, it evolved into a year-round and lifelong project that combined art collecting with architectural patronage in the peculiarly American tradition spearheaded by Isabella Stewart Gardner of Boston. Florence Sloane helped establish the Norfolk Museum (now the Chrysler Museum). The Sloanes' private domain opened to the public in 1942 with the establishment of the Hermitage Foundation Museum.
The Hermitage is the collaborative design of a patron and a master craftsman, with Florence Sloane in the role of the former and Charles J. Woodsend, an architect and woodcarver, in the role of the latter. Michael F. McCarthy replaced Woodsend after his death in the 1920s, supervising the numerous craftsmen at work on the house at any given time. Norfolk architect Wickham C. Taylor may have been associated with the design as well. The exterior is constructed on a brick foundation with naturally stained wooden shingles covering most surfaces. A variety of leaded glass windows, some from European sources, provided striking views of the surrounding gardens and the Lafayette River to the south. A picturesque combination of chimneys and gables with elaborate vergeboards completes the design, which appears to have evolved over centuries rather than decades. A variety of outbuildings continues the illusion of an English country estate.
On the interior, the plan is predictably irregular, with public rooms located to the west side of the house and private apartments to the east. Many of the rooms are richly paneled in traditional English patterns, including the linenfold design. The art collection is informally arranged as it was when the Sloanes lived there, and, although it ranges widely over time and geography, it is particularly strong in Asian art. Perhaps the most whimsical touch in this unusual dwelling is the motto carved in the main hall: “This is the house that Jack built,” which refers both to the nursery rhyme and to Florence Sloane, whose nickname was Jack.