Ocean House, Watch Hill

All Titles

  • Ocean House, Watch Hill

Dublin Core


Ocean House, Watch Hill



Images of postcard paintings of the Ocean House located in Westerly (Watch Hill), Rhode Island.

The Ocean House is a large Victorian hotel located in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Watch Hill is a small fire district located in the town of Westerly within Washington County. At the time of its closing the hotel was 152,165 square feet (14,136.6 m2) large. It was the last remaining water front Victorian Era hotel on mainland Rhode Island.Originally built in 1868 the Ocean House was rather small compared to the other large hotels located on Watch Hill. Over the years many additions were made to the hotel to make it a grand yellow landmark on the shore. In 1916, a motion picture starring Douglas Fairbanks called American Aristocracy was filmed at the Ocean House.

The old Ocean House did not have any heating, air conditioning, or ventilation. It was a seasonal hotel only open for about three months a year. After the Great White Station nightclub fire, Rhode Island's demanding fire codes were more rigorously enforced. The 138-year-old structure was grossly non-compliant with current building and life safety codes. The timber building's structure was compromised due to installation of electric and gas lines, plumbing, and reconfiguring the rooms to have private bathrooms. In the last years of the hotel's life the top two floors were off-limits to guests. Of the original 159 rooms only 59 could be used. The Ocean House closed its doors in 2003 and was sold.

The current owners considered renovating the old building. To do so would have required installation of interior structural shear walls to bring the Ocean House up to current code for hurricane and wind loads. New hurricane-rated windows set in new frames and a brand new foundation made of concrete with steel tie-downs throughout would have also been needed. All lead paint would have to be stripped off the exterior and interior. Interior mold would have to be removed which meant demolishing interior finishes. To offer today's hotel amenities two floors would need to be created below the current building, plus a concealed parking garage would be required. All these problems would be economically and physically impossible to fix, so the owners decided to replicate the Ocean House.

The old historic Ocean House structure was demolished in December 2005 and re-opened in 2010. The huge building with such a long history took only a few days to come down. The new building replicates over 60% of the old building, but only has 49 guest rooms, with 23 luxury residential suites available for purchase. They are priced at $2 million to $7 million for Studio, 1, or 2 bedrooms. Amenities in the new hotel include meeting rooms, spa, lap pool, fitness center, and restaurant. The construction of the new Ocean House was managed by Dimeo Construction Company of Providence, R.I.
Source: Ocean House, Rhode Island From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

See also:

Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission:  Statewide Preservation Reports, 1975 - 1982

Guide to Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation Division of Tourism photographs

Department of Economic Development - Videotapes, Tourism, 1977-1992

Westerly Town Charter (certified copy), November 5, 1968


Rhode Island State Archives


Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.





Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format



"Ocean House, Watch Hill," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #266, http://www.sos.ri.gov/virtualarchives/items/show/266 (accessed February 15, 2019).