Ocean House in national spotlight

Westerly - The growing international reputation of the Ocean House has received yet another boost as the iconic hotel is featured on the cover of the July issue of Condé Nast Traveler.

Inside, a six-page article that shows the hotel's pristine croquet lawn overlooking the ocean, praises not only the visitor experience offered at the luxury resort but the successful effort of mutual fund company President and part-time resident Charles Royce to save one of the last remaining 19th century grand New England hotels.

"When a storied summer playground for the East Coast elite was slated for demolition, Charles Royce made a promise to restore it to its former glory. Today, the Ocean House is once again the crown jewel — and point of civic pride — of Watch Hill Rhode Island," reads the introduction.

Royce bought the dilapidated hotel in 2005 after residents fought a plan by a previous developer to tear it down and build five luxury homes.

The hotel opened in 1868 to serve wealthy summer visitors and operated until 2003.

"I felt strongly that McMansions being put up in the hotel's place would be so wrong for this community," said Royce in the article. "It was an emotional decision. It certainly wasn't with knowledge of the hotel business, I can assure you."

The hotel reopened in 2010 after a three-year reconstruction that cost $146 million. Thousands of elements of the original hotel were saved and reinstalled as part of the new hotel such as the stone lobby fireplace, which was disassembled, documented and then put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. The new structure, which includes modern amenities, was designed by Centerbrook Architects of Essex.

Although he knew the magazine was working on a story, hotel Managing Director Daniel Hostettler said Wednesday that the content of the article and the chance to "grace the cover" came as "a complete shock to us."

He said the publicity helps put the Ocean House in the conversation with iconic American resorts such as Sea Island, Georgia and the Greenbrier in West Virginia.

"This is a huge opportunity to put the little Ocean House and this great little state in the national presence," he said, adding that 80 percent of the hotel's guests come from the East Coast. "This puts us on the national, if not the worldwide stage, which is what we are thrilled with."

But Hostettler said the resort's belief has always been to sell the region and Watch Hill first and then the hotel. Since the magazine issue was released earlier this week, he said the hotel has been fielding an increasing number of calls and emails from prospective guests.

The photos in the article include those of the wooden walkway that leads to East Beach, the hotel beach cabanas, Royce's restored yacht Aphrodite, the restored fireplace and the entrance to the hotel with its original sign.

The hotel has 49 rooms, 15 suites, a spa, restaurants that source local food, banquet rooms and of course its signature deck.

The story points out that Royce has also renovated the Weekapaug Inn several miles to the east and is doing the same to the Watch Hill Inn just down the hill from the Ocean House.

Condé Nast Traveler was founded in 1987 and has 821,000 subscribers, many of the middle aged, affluent and well educated. The magazine features luxury hotels, resorts and destinations around the world. Its advertisers include Rolex, Patron, Cartier. Prada, Cadillac and many upscale hotels and resorts.

Since its opening, the Ocean House has received many industry awards.

In 2013, Travel and Leisure magazine named it the 10th best resort in the continental United States and the 95th best in the world. It's OH! spa was named the seventh best in the world.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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