History

The Ocean House Marina is named after the 161 year old building on the property. The “Ocean House” was built in 1848 by brothers James and George Ward. One of Its first purposes was to serve as a meeting hall for the village of Cross Mills, in Charlestown, RI. The village, dating back to the 1600’s, was first settled by the Cross Family, and is situated on the “Old Kings Highway”, also known as the Old Post Rd. that ran from New York to Boston. The Ocean House, situated some 500 feet south of the main village intersection, is located on the Charlestown Pond, which was known originally as Pawaget or Ninigret pond, and named after the famous Ninigret Indian Sachem.

By the late 1860’s during the post civil War period, Governor Rufus Bullock of Georgia retreated to the Ocean House and reconstructed the property as a vacation resort and summer residence. Also known as Sisson Hotel as noted on a 1870 Beer’s Map.It became a summer destination with twelve buildings on the property, including boat houses, a dance hall, barns, a farm,and of course, the main in as seen in the photo above.

Unfortunately, during the great hurricane of 1938, many of the buildings came down

Governor Bullock held many parties and social functions that were restricted to his guests, but each year beginning in the 1870’s and continuing to the turn of the century, he sponsored a sail boat race, known on the pond as the “Ocean House Regatta”. On top of the Ocean House, there stood a lovely old cupola which served as the viewing stand for the regattas. The races began and ended at a location on the pond called “Grassy Point” and consisted of a sail twice around the pond, a distance of about twelve miles. Governor Bullock never sailed in the regatta, but always provided a prize,usually of silver or fine glass for the winner. A silver and pewter stein and butter dish are available to view here at the marina with the inscription on the side from 1874.

The Governor had an illustrious career,becoming interested in telegraphy when the civil war broke out becoming expert to the Confederacy, and was in charge of the telegraph lines from New York to Georgia. Before long,he became President of the American Express Bank, and in 1867 was President of the Macon and Augusta railroad as well. During his tenure as Governor,he was accused of corruption and after unsuccessfully trying to defend himself,he fled the state. After being captured and returned to Georgia,he was charged with embezzlement of public funds but was acquitted due to lack of evidence. You will find his presence in the American classic,”Gone With the Wind”,and rumor has it that Margaret Mitchell,author of the book,also summered here back in the early 1900’s.

We don’t know why Governor Bullock chose to retreat to Rhode Island and why he chose the Ocean House. We do know that he was married to a Marie Salisbury of Pawtucket,RI and was also a vestryman at St.Phillips Episcopal Church. The Bullock family shares a point, we may uncover some missing links to this interesting history.

The old building was also know a Sisson’s Hotel in the 1870’s and Cold Brook Farm in 1904 during the time period when the summer colony of Arnolda was being established along the Pond.