William Watts Sherman House at Shepard Avenue
The William Watts Sherman House, located on Shepard Avenue, is another notable structure in Newport, Rhode Island. It was built in 1875 by talented architect H.H. Richardson, and its interiors were done by Stanford White. The house is considered to be one of Richardson’s best works. It started a trend in American architecture known as the Shingle Style, for which it became a prototype. The house was built for William Watts Sherman and his wife Annie Derby Rodgers Wetmore. Sherman worked for the Duncan, Sherman & Co. which is a banking firm in New York. His wife was the daughter of the wealthy owner of the Gilded Age mansion Chateau-Sur-Mer, William Shepard Wetmore. After the design phase, the construction was then passed on the Norcross Brothers. They had the structural frames for the house manufactured in New Jersey and shipped to Newport for assembly.
The William Watts Sherman House has two and a half floors and is rectangular in shape. Its dimensions are about fifty-three by eighty-one feet. It has two main entrances on the west façade. On the east is a driveway leading to an entrance under a canopy. The first floor of the house features pink granite ashlar. The higher floors have veneers made of shingle, brick, stucco and windows. The windows have panels that are diamond in shape and are horizontally arranged in rows along the walls of the structure. There are five large chimneys of red brick that add drama to the house’s exterior visual impact. The roof of the William Watts Sherman House is a combination of steep gables, which used to be covered with wood shingles.
Reddish sandstone and brownstone were used for the structure’s trims and edges. The interior layout of the house is basically a cluster of rooms arranged around a large central hall. To make the central hall an even more interesting focal point, circa 1877 stained glass windows done by Daniel Cottier were installed. These additions, however, have been sold as ownership of the property changed.
In 1879, McKim, Mead, and White made modifications to the original design. Stanford White designed the house’s parlor and library, and Dudley Newton, a Newport architect, appended a ballroom and a service wing. The William Watts Sherman House is the result of the coming together of Renaissance English, European and Colonial American styles. Architectural historians believe the building to have been inspired by the houses designed by British architect Norman Shaw in Surrey. The house remained privately owned until 1951. Subsequently, it was given to the Baptist Home of Rhode Island and was used to home the aged. A hospital wing was added to the structure in 1963. In 1982, the William Watts Sherman House was bought by the Salve Regina University.