Villa Rosa // 1900-1962

Built as the summer residence of Mr. Eben Rollins Morse and Mrs. Marion Steedman Morse of Boston and New York, Villa Rosa was one of the finest summer cottages in Newport. The property was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Morse, which originally included three, large estates two of which were featured previously. Mr. Morse was a stockbroker and investment banker, and the couple lived on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, maintaining a summer home in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1900, the couple hired Ogden Codman, Jr., a society architect and historian from Boston, to design a townhome in New York (their new permanent home) and Newport, where they could summer with other wealthy New Yorkers. Their cottage, Villa Rosa, was a huge statement, likely to insert themselves into the high-society of Newport summers. Oriented to the south, rather than to Bellevue Avenue, the house took maximum advantage of its long narrow setting. The exterior of the house was covered in pastel pink stucco offset with white bas-relief panels and was crowned by a copper dome. The heart of the house was the green trellised circular Music Room or Ballroom, the first room in the United States to incorporate lattice design as a decorative scheme. The property was eventually sold for $21,500 to E.A. McNulty, a Rhode Island contractor. Ogden Codman’s masterpiece was demolished in December of 1962 and an apartment complex built on the site in 1965. Townhouse condominiums replaced the gardens in the 1970s and the gateposts, a final vestige, were cleared in 2004.

Image courtesy of Newport Historical Society.

Villa Rosa // 1875

This Victorian mansion in Oak Bluffs was built in 1875 as part of the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Development, a private off-shoot development inspired by the success of the Wesleyan Grove campground. The Stick style house was occupied by wealthy businessmen and their families from its completion to after WWII. The home was purchased by Joe Overton of Harlem, NY, likely the home’s first Black owner. Under Overton’s ownership, Martin Luther King Jr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and other civil rights leaders visited what has come to be known as the Summer White House for African Americans. Overton was New York’s first African American labor organizer and president of NAACP New York Chapter. The home served as an informal inn, which provided a safe night’s stay for African American elite visiting the island. There was a guestbook with the signature of nearly every major Civil Right’s organizer in it, even Fidel Castro stayed here once. The home is now owned by Valerie Mosley, who named it after her grandmother as Villa Rosa.