Historic Ocean House Resort Reopens
Watch Hill, Rhode Island's majestic Ocean House resort has reopened for the summer 2010 season after a sweeping, $140 million renovation.
Originally opened in 1868, the Victorian-style property catered to the era's high society with its prime beachfront location and leisure class activities like croquet on the lawn, bathing and sailing, and afternoon tea. By 1917, the dining room could serve 500, bands traveled from New York to entertain guests and the Douglas Fairbanks vehicle American Aristocracy, filmed at the resort, had just been released.
But by the turn of millennium a series of fires, almost a century-and-a-half of wear and a shift in tastes away from the seaside resort vacation, left the Ocean House a ghostly shell of its former grandeur. When in 2004 a group of summer residents, led by Royce Funds president Charles M. Royce, attempted to salvage the original structure it was determined that it was too far gone, and so the decision was made to recreate the original Ocean House as a modern hotel with period charm.
The 152,660-square foot result is a faithful, and striking, homage to its provenance with 49 rooms and 23 private residences. Thousands of architectural elements were salvaged and recreated to populate the hotel, including a 19th-century elevator, reception desk, stone fireplace, moldings and chandeliers. Even the resort's 247 windows have been placed in their original locations and the exterior color remains the distinctive butter cream yellow.
Gallery: Ocean House
But as much as the Ocean House exudes last century (and the one before that), the new structure is also a modern one. Guest rooms, ranging from 500-square-feet to 4,000-square-foot deluxe suites, are appointed with hardwood floors and decorative copper trim, a nod to stately seaside estates, but they also feature HD flat screen televisions, available iPods and iPads filled with music and videos (the hotel has Wi-Fi throughout), and dedicated floor valets for butler service.
The Ocean House's dining options go to great lengths to embrace the au courant farm-to-table trend. Both fine and casual dining options, with an emphasis on Northeast Atlantic cuisine, benefit estate-grown ingredients from the resort's own farm, local produce, and sustainably harvested seafood.
A 12,000-square-foot OH! spa has been added to the property, offering locally-sourced products and seasonal treatments. A full-service hair and nail salon occupy the space as well, and the spa utilizes its beach real estate to offer waterfront massages, along with yoga and tai chi classes (during the summer).
With all the history surrounding the Ocean House, including the nearby Flying Horse merry-go-round (the oldest in the country), it's comforting to see that this transformation honors it so well.
(off-season rooms from $260; peak-season from $485)