Salve Regina University
National Register of Historic Places
Wetmore Hall as built in the 1850s as the stables and carriage house for William Shepard Wetmore’s Chateau-sur-Mer mansion. The stone carriage house was designed by Newport Contractor Seth Bradford and included a two-bay carriage barn built with red sandstone, large garage openings to the south, and a cut slate mansard roof with dormers. The carriage house underwent several building campaigns throughout the Wetmore family’s residency, shaping the appearance of the building. Richard Morris Hunt drew up plans for alterations between 1876 and 1883, while he was remodeling the chateau. However, it was local architect George Champlin Mason who expanded the stables in the early 1880s, maintaining the original building style by using the same materials, roof line, and cornice details as the original. A second campaign of alterations between 1883 and 1893 added an L-shaped wing of brick with two levels of flat arches that housed additional stables, feed rooms, and a carpenter’s shop. Finally, between 1893 and 1907, a tool house was added to the west of the building, an enclosed exercise yard was added, and the carpenter’s shop was removed to accommodate a wider gate.
In 1969, Salve Regina University purchased a portion of the original Wetmore estate that included the carriage house and open field to the south. The University’s Facilities and Athletics departments occupied the building until 2004, when they were relocated. That same year, MCWB completed a Getty Campus Heritage Preservation Plan for the SRU campus, and was subsequently retained to design the rehabilitation and adaptive-use plan for Wetmore Hall to convert it for academic use. The project was completed in 2007, and Wetmore Hall is presently part of the Antone Academic Center; housing studios, classrooms, laboratories and offices for the visual arts, cultural, and historic preservation departments.
Given the original plan of a centralized circulation system for the storage and care of horses, carriages, equipment and hay, it did not provide adequate circulation for a modern art school facility. The solution that was proposed and constructed involved a 275 foot gallery corridor along the north facade of the building. Existing tennis courts were relocated to accommodate this addition which is glazed on its entire north facade, allowing natural northern light to illuminate this circulation spine. The design underwent extensive review by the local Historic District Commission of Newport which had strict criteria for both the massing and materials for the addition.
Integration of multiple mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems was also a key component of the design to accommodate such a variety of uses from photographic laboratories requiring clean-air environments, to ceramics studios and kiln rooms which required individual systems. Efficiency improvements were addressed in both envelope improvements as well as with mechanical equipment. A heating plant was housed in a former non-historic toilet room so as to not compromise any significant historic spaces. New toilet facilities were constructed in a service wing that caters to both the new art school as well as the adjacent playing fields so that the facilities offer dual-use to save on any need for additionally constructed buildings.
Other notable challenges that were addressed in the design of the project, were treatment of original character defining features of both the interior and exterior of the original stables buildings and subsequent and significant additions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Steel hopper windows used in the stables areas were completely restored and made operable. Minton tile areas that were missing were either restored with replica tile or integrated into beaded board wainscot typical of the period. Period light fixtures were specified for various significant spaces to enhance the experience and pay respect to the era, while satisfying modern lighting requirements for an academic facility. Doors and windows lining the exercise “courtyard” were reconstructed faithfully from historic photographs of the original condition while allowing for proper egress and hardware to be installed in selected doors for areas requiring a legal means of egress.