OCHRE MAGAZINE

A publication featuring student work from the Department of English and Communications at Salve Regina University.

The History of Ochre Court

Editor’s Note: The image on our home page is taken from a postcard of Ochre Court, the Newport summer “cottage” built-in the 1890s for the Ogden Goelet family. Goelet, his wife, and their two children lived in the mansion for eight weeks a year. Today, Ochre Court serves as the administration building for Salve Regina University and is one of the campus’s most iconic sites.

A CHATEAU-STYLE ‘COTTAGE’

Front of Ochre Court, Salve Regina University

Ochre Court, Salve Regina University

Completed in 1892, Ochre Court was modeled after the medieval chateaux of France’s Loire Valley. It is almost a perfect replica of Edward VII’s castle in Paris.

In 1947, Ogden’s son, Robert, gifted the mansion to establish a permanent home for Salve Regina College, chartered by the Sisters of Mercy in 1934. During this time, the mansion was also one of several locations under consideration to become the home of The United Nations.

If you stroll around the grounds, you will notice many exterior features reminiscent of the late French Gothic period – sandstone carvings of gargoyles, griffins, floral design, high roofs, turrets, tall chimneys, and elaborate dormers. One interesting feature to note is the sundial on the South-facing side of Ochre Court…it works.

The South-facing side of Ochre Court may also be familiar to those who have seen the movie “True Lies” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. The exterior of the Swiss chalet that Schwarzenegger’s character infiltrates is Ochre Court, The snow-covered mountains in the background of the chalet were digitally added, but the boathouse that blows up in the film was actually constructed and detonated on campus. The Doberman pinschers that wobble away after an altercation with Schwarzenegger’s character during his escape were filmed walking on water mattresses.

THE GREAT HALL

Ochre Court’s Great Hall faces the sea, and the view looking out at the grounds sloping down to the oceanside cliffs is intended to give the impression of being at the helm of a ship looking out over the water. The heraldic designs in the Great Hall—salamanders to symbolize Francois I, porcupines, and fleur-de-lis—are carved in caen stone.

Great Hall, Ochre Court, Salve Regina University

View of the Great Hall in Ochre Court, Salve Regina University

The motto Ex Candore Decus, Beauty from Splendor, is carved above the stone fireplace in the Great Hall. If you look closely, you will also find several references to the cygnet, or young swan, in the ironwork, bronze and stone. This is because the cygnet appears in the Goelet family coat of arms. It symbolizes poetry, grace, music and purity.

HIGH ABOVE THE GREAT HALL

Carved in the oak panels on the second floor of Ochre Court are medallions symbolizing family interests as well as the patronage of the Goelet family toward music, art, history, science and literature.

High above the Great Hall, 12 caryatids (carved human figures) support the ceiling. The ceiling itself is actually a canvas painting depicting a banquet scene of the gods.

Carved marble dolphins, representing salvation and cherubs, signifying the soul and spiritual change, support the balustrade of the Grand Staircase. Above the stair landing is a stained glass window (c. 1400) from the Carmelite Church at Boppard, Germany. It was purchased at the auction of the Spitzer Collection in 1893. Other panels from this collection are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or at the affiliated Cloisters Museum located in Fort Tryon Park in the northern end of Manhattan Island.

Ochre Court, Salve Regina University

Ochre Court, Salve Regina University

In 1947, Ogden’s son, Robert, gifted the mansion to establish a permanent home for Salve Regina College, chartered by the Sisters of Mercy in 1934. During this time, the mansion was also one of several locations under consideration to become the home of The United Nations. Today, Ochre Court houses a number of administrative offices, including the Office of the President. It is also the site of numerous performances and public events.