The Ocean House was built in 1868. Sitting majestically on a hill overlooking Watch Hill and with a commanding view of Block Island Sound she quickly became the grande dame of resort hotels along the Rhode Island coast.
Open only from July 1 thru Labor Day she dominated the summer social scene in the surrounding area for many, many years. Built and expanded to ultimately have 154 guest rooms the capacity was eventually reduced to 59 guest rooms as the upper floors were closed because of fire safety issues. The thought of these upper floors being closed and vacant for decades always conjured up ghostly images in my mind, if only the walls could talk.
In 2003 the Ocean House closed her doors for good and was purchased by a developer who intended to tear her down and build five luxury houses on the 13-acre site. Local residents and preservationists united in an effort to save this historic hotel. Eventually Mr. Charles Royce, a local resident, and a group of investors stepped forward and purchased the hotel with the intention of restoring her.
While the Ocean House survived the destructive hurricane of í38 it became apparent after an engineering study that she could not be saved because of severe deterioration and strict new fire code requirements. In December 2005 the demolition began and the lot now sits empty and forlorn, but not for long. Plans to replicate the Ocean House in all her glory are currently working their way through the approval and permit process.
Iíve made numerous visits to the Ocean House over the past 18 years during the summer and also the off-season, always with a camera in hand. Walking through the front door was a step back in time and while the Ocean House suffered the ravages of old age and neglect she always maintained her dignity.