The most expensive house for sale in RI has links to an infamous singer, MLK and Gandhi and the diocese

Friday, July 29, 2022

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From left to right: Martin Luther King, Jr. Zachary Smith Reynolds, Libby Holman and Bishop Gelineau. MLK PHOTO: DeMarsico, Dick, photographer

The most expensive house currently for sale in Rhode Island is “Sandcastle”. As GoLocal first reported this week, the Watch Hill estate is on the market for $32.5 million.

But before being called “Sandcastle”, it was the summer retreat of the Diocese of Providence. The diocese received it through a bequest from a wealthy Rhode Island family in 1942. Diocesan bishops and other leadership used the estate as a summer retreat – it was a favorite of the Bishop Louis Gelineau.

Its history, however, is much richer.


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Libby Holman, cleared of the murder of her husband

Torch Singer, tobacco heir and MLK and Gandhi

Before the diocese owned the property, the estate had an intriguing heritage.

According to city records, the house was built in 1930, and two years later became Libby Holman’s summer residence.

Holman was “freshly acquitted” of charges of murdering her new husband Zachary Smith Reynolds, the tobacco company heir. Holman and Reynolds’ best friend has been charged with the murder which took place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the family’s huge estate – “Reynolda House”.

Reynolds at the time was one of the wealthiest Americans. His estate is estimated to be worth $350 million today.

Ultimately, Holman was exonerated—Reynolds’ uncle claimed his nephew’s death was a suicide.

Holman moved to the Watch Hill Estate with his infant son.

“In 1932, torch singer Libby Holman, fresh from her acquittal in the murder trial brought following the shooting death of her husband,

Zachary Smith Reynolds of the tobacco family, spent a summer at Rim Rock with the couple’s infant son and an entourage, who

included ฀ bodyguards, “ according Watch Hill Through Time.

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Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Bob Fitch Photographic Archive, Stanford University Libraries

Legacy helped fund the civil rights movement

Holman and Reynold’s only child, their son Christopher, died in a mountain climbing accident in his twenties. A foundation – the Christopher Reynolds Foundation – was established by Holman in his name in the 1950s.

He was financed by the millions he had inherited.

“One of the Foundation’s first grants was to support Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s trip to India to study the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. The first grants were also awarded to the Highlander Research and Education Center and efforts to support the work of the National Student Coordinating Committee on Civil Rights,” the Foundation states.

Wealthy Providence family

The Percival O. ofSt. The Aubin family acquired the property in 1936. He was a wealthy industrialist from Providence and served on the board of the Rhode Island Foundation. He and his brother owned one of the largest mills. This mill has been transformed into one of the most prominent apartment complexes in the Jewelery Quarter.

Before Imperial Place was apartments, this was the location of Imperial Knife. But, the complex was built in the 1890s to house the Vesta Knitting Mills. Vesta belonged to the de฀St. Aubin family. In 1941 the factory closed and the facilities were sold to Imperial Knife.

In 1942, the Watch Hill property was left under the will of Marion de St. Aubin to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

Specifically, “she left the church her greatest gifts: $5,000 to her parish and the rest of her estate to Bishop Francis P. Keough, the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Providence. This included his Watch Hill home, which was worth $35,000 at the time,” according to a Providence Journal article.

For about 60 years it was the summer retreat of the Bishop of Providence, but in 2003 the diocese sold the property to compensate victims of sexual violence. abuses committed by members of the Diocese of Providence.

The house was sold for $7 million in 2003 to the Hartford, Connecticut couple – Paul and Camille Daqui – who remodeled the house and are the sellers today.

The history of the estate traces the best and the worst in the history of Rhode Island and around the world.

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PHOTO: Mott & Chase Sotheby’s International

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