Since it’s completion in 1852, Chateau-sur-Mer has undergone a major transformation. Chateau-sur-Mer was first built by Seth Bradford, for William Shepard Wetmore, as a romantic Italianate villa. Wetmore wanted something a little more than the ordinary summer home and therefore had his made of rough-cut, Fall River granite, giving it a more rugged look, which wasn’t found in any of the other seaside villas. Though smaller than it is now, it was expensive and substantial enough to be considered palatial. It became a turning point in domestic architecture and triggered an architectural competition among summer residents.
Wetmore was a great entertainer and was featured in the New York Times for his “fete champetre,” held in 1857, and attended by over 3,000 guests. This party was the “start” of Chateau-sur-Mer. Unfortunately, when Wetmore died in 1862, his estate was passed to his son, George Peabody Wetmore, who undertook a major rebuilding of his fathers estate.
Richard Morris Hunt was the architect hired for the project. He altered the appearance of the Chateau so much that many believed the original had been torn down and replaced. His revisions began in 1871. He switched the main entrance from the west side to the north, built a grand carriage entrance, and replaced the gambrel roof with a steeper mansard roof. Hunt tore out the old service wing and replaced it with a billiards room, added a wing on the north side for a service area and new dining room, and created a dramatic entrance hall three stories high with balconies, skylights and an imperial staircase.
Several years later he continued the transformation of Chateau-sur-Mer and added another floor above the dining room and service wing as well as raising the mansard roofs. Critics have since used words such as “stern” and “severe” to describe this impressive mansion.
George Peabody Wetmore died in 1921 and left the estate to his two daughters, Edith and Maude, who began adding some softer touches to the very masculine residence. The house gradually filled with contemporary paintings and drawings and Chinese porcelain. The furnishings of the house were auctioned off after the death of Edith Wetmore in 1968, many of which were purchased by the Preservation Society, whom also purchased the estate.