Historic Structures

William Watts Sherman House, Newport Rhode Island

Date added: July 29, 2010 Categories: Rhode Island House

Miss Annie Derby Wetmore, daughter of William Shepard Wetmore and sister of George Peabody Wetmore, received the Victoria Avenue property from her father's estate in 1870. In July of the following year she married W. Watts Sherman, a partner in the New York banking house of Duncan, Sherman and Company. Annie Wetmore Sherman died November, 1884, but the property remained part of her estate until 1890. The house was commissioned by her and was always referred to as Mrs. Sherman's house. Mr. Sherman then married Sophia Augusta Brown, who died in 1947. An inventory of her estate listed the following rooms: entrance hall, large reception hall, dining room library, ballroom, pantry, kitchen, servant's dining room, servant s sitting room, laundry, second floor hall, yellow morning room, northeast bedroom, north bedroom, sewing room, east bedroom, southeast bedroom, blue room, southeast bedroom, southeast dressing room, sitting room, third floor hall, east attic room, southeast bedroom, third floor south office, third floor library, trunk room, attic, east storeroom, west storeroom, servant's bedrooms, fourth floor trunk room and basement storerooms. The inventory by Gustave J.S. White, Inc., Newport also lists a smoke house,gardener's cottage and garage. The Newport Mercury on January 9, 1875 stated that "A new house on the Wetmore estate is to be built in the spring, for Mrs. Sherman, sister of Geo. E. Wetmore. This house we understand is now being built, or in other words, framed and got ready for building in New Jersey and will be freighted here and put up." Considering that Norcross Brothers of Worcester, Massachusetts were the contractors, it would seem more likely that this work was done in their workshops in Worcester. Possibly the news report was erroneous, or possibly a subcontractor was involved. With reference to the Newport Journals report in 1876, qouted above, that the contractors "have been unable to find a name for the style, it should be noted that the family called the house "Queen Anne."

"The most expensive house building is. for Mrs. W. Watts Sherman, wife of a partner in the banking firm of Duncan, Sherman & Co. , of New York. It is situated on. the cliffs in the rear of the residence of Nathan Matthews of Boston, and near the villa of George Peahody Wetmore of New York, Mrs. Sherman's Brother. Its style is neither Roman nor Grecian, and so far the contractors have been unable to find a name for it. Everything in and about the mansion is antique. Taking away the handsome material, used in, its finish,. however., it reminds me of one of the houses built a century ago. The size of the house, including the bays is 53 by 81 feet. The two principal entrances are on the west side,with a "porte cochere" on the east, which opens upon a terrace 13 feet wide. The servants' entrances are in the basement on the west side. The exterior of the first story is of ashlar walls and the four bays and lintels are made of Longmeadow stone. The remainder of the building above the stonework is composed of wood. The dimensions of the basement are 15 by 19 feet, and it contains a laundry 16 x 20 feet, and a servants' hall 18 x 20 feet in addition to a number of small apartments. The first floor is divided off as follows: Vestibule, 14 x 19 feet; hall 18 X 32 feet containing a large old fashioned fireplace. The drawing room is 16 X 20 feet with bays 5 x 10 feet; the dining room is 18 x 20 feet, with a handsome fire-place and massive carved mantel, with bays 6 x 14 feet. The library is 16 feet square, and also contains a very noticeable mantel and has bays 6 x 16 feet. The principal staircase leads up from the Vestibule. It is very massive being made of black walnut, handsomely carved. The second story is divided into three dressing-rooms, two bathrooms, and closets. The third story contains a large guest chamber, elaborately finished in hard wood, besides several rooms for the servants, and smaller rooms for various purposes. The dining-room, hall, and vestibule, have ash floors, laid in ornamental squares, and their walls are wainscoted seven feet from the floor. The ceilings of the hall and vestibule present a very novel appearance, the huge timbers being in sight. They are, however, encased in black walnut which tends to do away with the impression that an ancient style has been imitated. The ceiling in the drawing-room is formed into panel-work, with black walnut moldings. The main chimney, which is about 5 x8 feet, and which extends about 12 feet above the roof, reminds one of "ye ancient time". The windowpanes are really old-fashioned, the smallest being 3 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches and the largest 3 feet and 10 inches long by 2 feet and 7 inches wide. Another singular feature about the house is the fact that no paint or oil has been used, outside, and even the window sills are to be left just as they were when the carpenters finished them,It is the wish of its owner that it may look as though it had been built for years. The stable, which is of the same style as the house, is completed. Its dimensions are 25 x 25 feet, and it is to be used for a carriage house and tenement. The L is 19 x 35 feet, and is to be used for the horses, of which there will be five. The cost of the house and stable will be $50,000, and the cost of fitting up the extensive grounds will amount to $15,000, more.The land, which is very valuable, will make the estate worth in the neighborhood of $100,000 exclusive of the furniture. It will be occupied early neat month by Mr. and Mrs. Sherman, the architects are Messrs. Gambril [sic] and Richardson of New York, and the builders are Norcross Brothers of Worcester, Mass."