Historic Structures

Description of Interior Chateau-sur-Mer Mansion (Wetmore House), Newport Rhode Island

Entering from the porte-cochere on the north, one proceeds up a short flight of eight low steps to the main floor. Diagonally ahead is located the three story hall with skylight and balconies. From this hall doors lead to the dining room on the east, the ballroom on the south, the marble hall to the southwest the library on axis with the dining room to the west, and the billiard, now morning room,at the northwest corner of the house. The green parlor is south of the marble hall, which contained the original entrance to the west. In the northeast corner of the house between the dining room and the stairs are located the butler's pantry and china closet. The five bathrooms, ten bedrooms, day nursery, sitting room, and servant quarters are similarly arranged about the tapestry hall and the skylighted hall above Bradford's marble hall. Access to the basement is gained by two exterior entrances on the east. The newel service stair to the east of the grand stair connects the basement with the five levels of the service area. Below the butler's pantry and china closet are located the servants' hall and main service entrance. To the south, under the dining room and porch are located the kitchen, two pantries, and the scullery with the secondary access to the exterior. Below the green parlor and the south end of the ballroom are located the southwest and southeast wine rooms. A boot room is below the library. The laundry and ironing room is under the billiard room. The heating plant and coal storage bins were located under the original entrance hall and Hunt' s porte-cochere and grand stair case. The storage for sherry and hard liquor was located behind the windowless entresol between the third story and the dormered roof of the vest tower.

First floor

Hall and stairway: The open well double stairway rises three stories over the entrance. The Eastlake woodwork of the wainscoting has stiles which rise above the top rails. The soffit of the stairway is painted on each side of a central rib with foliage which strays at the landings into trellis work. At the top of the well this pattern develops into a complex radial circumferential trellis with birds and blue sky. Charles Salagnad painted a pseudo-tapestry on canvas for the walls of the first floor flights. On the next two flights and on all the walls of the three story hall there is a tapestry-like wallpaper.At the foot of the stairs, the exterior double doors of the vestibule to the porte-cochere are made to "disappear" as wall panels in the upper portion of the leaves. Bronze figures signed by the French foundry of Guiilaumin stand atop the newel posts. At the five landings, there are gas and electric lighting fixtures with cherubs. Four octagonal, lantern shaped chandeliers hang from the corners of the opening in the ceiling. Between the ceiling of the stairway and the actual mansard roof is the top layer of servant bedrooms. The hall, known as the tapestry hall, although no tapestry has ever hung from its walls, is an enlarged development of the internal upstairs hall of Bradford's original house. The height of the hall is exaggerated visually by the broadening of the ascending balconies. The center opening thus becomes smaller. The ceiling panel of colored glass covers a lightwell which was equipped with gas Jets for night illumination. Rack and pinion devices on the panel enabled the whole hall to be ventilated through the skylight. Marble is used for the entrance floor and stairs. Oak strips in a herringbone pattern are the flooring in the hall and stairway. The balconies on the second and third floors have lanterns at the corners of the balustrades similar in style to those in the stairway. Minton tiles decorate the fireplace in the hall. The tiles of the surround have caricatures of fish and dogs. Red tiles with a black design decorate the hearth and interior of the fireplace. There are bookcases with glass doors on the east and west walls of the hall.

Billiard room: The oak woodwork in the Eastlake manner of the stairs and hall is continued in what is now called the morning room. Ash is used for the panelling. There are entrances to the room from the stair hall, the tapestry hall, and the library. The fireplace on the east wall is flanked by two doors. The south door opens to the stair hall. A lavatory, originally for male guests, is located behind the, north door. This is the only lavatory on the ground floor. Of the two doors in the west wall, the right leads into the library and the left opens to the tapestry hall. Glazed bookcases replace the wainscoting on the south, vest, and north walls, but retain the projecting stile motif of the hall and stair case. The chimney breast is 12' 9" wide and decorated with Minton tiles. There are three tiles with geometric designs separating four tiles of the seasons, each with a single female head. The tiles on the interior of the fireplace are decorated with pussy willows. A richly articulated mantel is topped by a large mirror framed by abstracted architectural detailing. The billiard room ceiling is divided by false beams which converge at the center. The original droplights similar in design to the remaining wall sconces have been removed. Two iron beams are hidden in the ceiling to carry the load. The projecting window bays in the north and west walls have large, double hung windows of single light sashes with louvered shutters which fold into reveals. Beneath each window is a seat with storage areas. A low, segmental arch supported by fluted, engaged columns flanked by abstractly detailed pilasters of ash, and drapery rods frame the window bays and the doors on the south wall. The floor is of oak strips laid in a herringbone pattern. Hunt designed the furniture for the room. The billiard table is no longer part of the ensemble.

Library: Luigi Frullini, a Florentine decorator, was responsible for the decorations and the furnishings in the library and dining room. Although the room was not completed until late 1876, the date 1873 is carved into a pilaster over the built-in writing desk located in the center of the south wall. Italian-American references, the names of Colombo and Amerigo, are also carved into the pilasters flanking the desk. To either side of the desk are doors opening to the marble hall. Opposite the desk on the north wall is the fireplace with a tile surround. Renaissance pilasters with arabesques in low relief frame the walls and the architectural elements of the room. The elaborate carved ceiling of false beams is also executed in walnut. A vine motif surrounds the elaborate designs of the parquet floor. To the right of the fireplace, one of the bookcases was built to swing out and form a door to the billiard room. The walls are covered with an embossed wallpaper with designs based on abstract floral patterns. Two double hung windows with single lights per sash fill the window bay in the west wall. A two leaf door with panelling is centered in the east wall, opening to the tapestry hall on axis with the dining room to the east.

Dining room: The sliding, double entrance doors centered on the vest wall are mirrored. Sliding mirrored panels also cover all windows. The large walnut built-in serving tables with caryatid supports and silver display areas flank this entrance. On the south wall, a similarly designed sideboard with marble top and majolica plaque depicting a hunter is set between two French windows opening to the terrace and veranda. The fireplace in the north wall has a majolica tile surround depicting a deer hunting scene signed E. Glucli, 1876. A curved walnut overmantel is carved with Bacchic cherubs and bunches of grapes in a pyramidal grouping. The high, heavily carved and molded wainscoting with gilded and stamped, polychrome leather above covers the walls. A blind door to the right of the fireplace leads to the butler's pantry. The oval, stretched canvas ceiling painting by Annibale Gatti depicting cherubs offering food and drink is framed by a heavily molded walnut ceiling. Folded louvered shutters cover the windows in the east bay. The parquet floor has an elaborate inlaid design. Eight triple globe wall sconces illuminate the room.

Ballroom: Located to the south of Hunt's tapestry hall, the ballroom was altered in its decor when Hunt enlarged the house. A large marble mantelpiece centered on the east wall, has boldly projecting moldings. The plaster moldings of the wall panels are highlighted by carved and gilt floral motifs. These moldings and the two chandeliers appear to be the alterations of the 1870s. Oak parquet flooring of 10" x 20" rectangles is laid in a herringbone pattern with square border trim. A large gilt framed mirror extends from the fireplace mantel to the ceiling. The plaster walls have a deep cove molding and elaborate framing elements highlighted by gilt. Heavy plaster moldings in the ceiling trace the plan of the room. Two plaster rondels mark the location of the chandeliers. The two leaf door opening to the hall folds flush into reveals. The door is finished with full length mirrors on the ballroom side and chamfered wooden detailing on the hall side. The double sliding doors into the green parlor and marble hall are mahogany with six recessed panels per leaf. Ail are finished with German silver hardware. There are elaborate, heavy architectural entablatures over the doors with the edge surface highlighted by gilt. A walnut veneer faces the outer surface of the doors to the marble hall- The three French windows opening to the veranda have louvered shutters which fold into reveals.

Marble hall: Originally one entered beneath the tower on the west facade into this marble floored hall which connects to the library and tapestry hall on the north, directly east to the ballroom, and right to the green parlor at the southwest corner of the-house. Large white marble tiles with small black marble tiles at the-intersections are laid in a diagonal pattern. There is a pierced brass register in the floor from the original heating system. All the wood is walnut. The doorways have heavy moldings topped with heavy entablatures. The plaster walls are painted a dark green above the walnut wainscoting. Near the top of the wall, a wooden molding holds a brass tube railing for the hanging of pictures. Above this railing is a stenciled border of abstract floral designs. The ceiling is divided into three rectangular areas by two heavy wooden beams. Each area has a large center rectangle surrounded by a border of lighter beams. This border is decorated by a rich floral design with geometric edging. The center panel is decorated with an abstract, repetitive pattern. Originally chandeliers hung from the two heavy beams. The French window which opens onto the veranda has louvered shutters which fold into reveals. Opposite the door to the tapestry hall is a single leaf door which would open into the green parlor. This door is false. All other doors in the hall are two leaf with marble sills.

Green parlor: Redecorated in the style of Louis XV in 1903 by Ogden Codman, a Wetmore relative, this southwest corner room has green damask on the walls. The African marble fireplace on the north wall may be original. Tiles of African and white marble are used for the hearth. The interior of the fireplace is faced in cast iron. A smooth cove cornice tops the carved panel work which frames the padded green damask. The plaster ceiling has low relief plaster decoration. French windows with louvered shutters are centered in the south and west walls. Carpeting covers the floor. The wall sconces are electric.

Service area: The butler's pantry and china closet to the north of the dining room have red and black tile floors. The cabinets and woodwork in the two rooms is of edge grain and quarter sawn cherry. A large silver vault is set in the north wall of the butler's pantry. The plaster walls above the cherry wainscoting is painted a deep red. The double hung windows have iron bars. The gas lighting fixtures have been converted to electricity.

Second floor

Southwest bedroom: Originally Mr. Wetmore's room, this bedroom has a recessed area on the east wall which receives the head of the bed. Flanking the bed are panelled doors. The left door opens to a closet. The right door offers access to Mrs. Wetmore's bedroom to the east. The opening of the recess is decorated with an elaborate architectural frame of turned and incised woodwork painted black with accents of red-orange. A wooden panelled mantelpiece and overmantel of a similar design surround the hearth. The fireback is of red-orange glazed brick. The lower portion of the wall is wainscoted. A Morris style paper covers the plaster walls and ceiling. The ceiling paper has a border of two rows of alternating black and gold rectangles. Black and gold are also used to highlight the molded plaster ceiling cornice. The double hung windows have louvered shutters which fold into reveals.

Southeast bedroom: Mrs. Wetmore's bedroom has painted plaster walls and ceiling with plaster moldings dividing the wall areas. The parquet floor is of oak strips. The double hung windows have louvered shutters which fold into reveals. On the east wall is a fireplace topped with a heavy molded wooden mantelpiece. In the dressing room to the north, the north wall has been panelled and fitted with a fireplace in Colonial Revival style complete with old blue and white Dutch tiles.

Sitting room: Located above the original entrance, the sitting room has a diagonal marble front fireplace in the southeast corner. French windows open to the roof over the entrance. The plaster walls and ceilings are painted.

West bedroom: Above the present library, this bedroom has painted plaster walls and ceiling. This bedroom, the sitting room to the south, and the other two major bedrooms open from a small galleried hall with skylight. The fireplace in the north wall is of white marble. It contains two gas lines which have been closed. Two double hung windows with louvered shutters which fold into reveals are located in the west wall. The clothes closet in the east wall is cedar lined. A door cut through the original north wall leads to an added dressing room, and bath. There is a marble fireplace in the dressing room.

Northwest bedroom: Added in Hunt's first expansion of the house, this suite includes another dressing room and bath. Both the bedroom and the dressing room have wooden fireplaces in the style of the billiard room below. The ceilings of these two rooms are decorated at the corners and along the cove cornices with stenciled abstract floral motifs in geometric patterns.

Bathrooms: There are four bathrooms on the second floor. Two of the three family bathrooms were added by Hunt in 1872 The large bathroom next to Mrs. Wetmore's bedroom has decorative tile flooring. The walls are covered with glazed white tiles laid diagonally. White tiles and wooden trim encase the tub, wash stand, and toilet. The sink has a marble top and bowl, There is a colored glass skylight with openings for ventilation. A door also opens to the original gallery hall. The other two bathrooms are smaller. They have white tile walls and floors. The tubs and sinks are marble.

Third floor

Chambers: There are ten rooms. The walls and ceilings are plaster. In some rooms wallpaper was used, but it has been removed in recent years. The room above the sitting room in the west facade tower has a flowered vine motif along the perimeter of the ceiling. Birds decorate the corners. Cartoons for these designs have been discovered on the walls upon removal of the wallpaper. The floors are plain oak boards. There are four fireplaces, three marble and one wooden. The double hung windows have louvered. shutters which fold into reveals.

Bathrooms: There are two-and-a-half bathrooms. The bathroom above the large bathroom on the second floor also has a colored glass skylight with ventilation. Blue and white tiles are used on the floors and white tiles on the walls.

Basement

The treatment of the walls and floors of the service stairway, hall, and servants' dining room is continued from the butler's pantry and china closet. Tile floors and walls were laid in the area ways, kitchen, pantries, scullery, and dining room in 1881. The two wine rooms on the south side of the house are unfinished with dirt floors and stone walls.