Home News The Most Expensive Home for Sale in RI Has Ties to an Infamous Singer, MLK and Gandhi and Diocese

The Most Expensive Home for Sale in RI Has Ties to an Infamous Singer, MLK and Gandhi and Diocese

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Friday, July 29, 2022

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Left to right: Martin Luther King, Jr. Zachary Smith Reynolds, Libby Holman, and Bishop Gerrineau. MLK PHOTO: DeMarsico, Dick, Photographer

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

But before it was named “Sandcastle”, it was the summer retreat of the Parish of Providence. The parish received it in 1942 through a bequest from a wealthy Rhode Island family. It was a favorite of Bishop Louis Gélinault.

But its history is much richer.

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Libby Holman escaped murder of husband

Torchlight Singer, Cigarette Heiress, MLK and Gandhi

Before the parish owned the property, the estate had an interesting heritage.

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

Holman had “just been acquitted” of the murder of her new husband, Zachary Smith Reynolds, heir to a tobacco company. He was charged with the murder that took place at the “Reynolda House”.

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

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

Holman moved with his young son to the Watchhill estate.

“1932, Torch Singer, Libby, Holman, just acquitted The trial of the murder case that took place after the shooting of the husband,

Tobacco family member Zachary Smith Reynolds had a summer In Rimrock with the couple’s young son and entourage

Bodyguards included” according to Watch Hill Through Time..

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

Legacy Helps Fund Civil Rights Movement

Holman and Reynold’s only child, son Christopher, died in a climbing accident in his twenties. Foundation — Christopher Reynolds Foundation — was founded by Holman in his name in the 1950s.

It was funded by millions of dollars he inherited.

“One of the Foundation’s first grants was to support the trip of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to India to study the non-violent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. We also went to the Center and efforts to support the work of the National Student Coordinating Committee on Citizenship,” the foundation said.

wealthy providence family

The Percival O. de฀ St. Aubin family acquired the property in 1936. He was a wealthy Providence businessman and a director of the Rhode Island Foundation. He and his brother owned his one of the largest factories. That factory has been transformed into his one of the preeminent apartment complexes in the Jewelry District.

Before Imperial Place became apartments, it was the location of Imperial Knives. However, the complex was built in his 1890s to house Bestan Knitting Mills. Vesta was owned by de฀St. Orbin family. In 1941 the factory closed and the facility was sold to Imperial Knife.

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

Specifically, “She left the church her greatest gift: $5,000 to the diocese and the rest of her fortune to Bishop Francis P. Keough, the fourth bishop of Providence. Providence Journal.” According to the article, this included her Watchhill home, which was valued at $35,000 at the time.

For some 60 years it was the bishop of Providence’s summer retreat, but in 2003 the diocese sold the property to pay victims of sex crimes and abuse by members of the diocese of Providence.

The home was sold for $7 million in 2003 to Paul and Camille Dacqui of Hartford, Connecticut.

Real Estate History tracks the best and worst of history in Rhode Island and around the world.

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Photo: Mott & Chase Sotheby’s International

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