Brown University-Rochambeau House, Providence, RI
Bequeathed to Brown University by the late Mary Elizabeth Sharp, Rochambeau House is a fine example of 18th century French Chateau style architecture. Built in 1929, this 20,000sf brick and limestone residence contains many original pieces and architectural details taken from the Loire Valley in France, including marble fireplaces and boiserie woodwork.
The stipulation of the gift was that Brown University continue to carry out the educational legacy put forth by Mrs. Sharpe. During her lifetime, Mrs. Sharpe established herself as a philanthropist and patron of intellectual pursuits, and opened her home to students from Brown establishing an informal “salon” engaging in artistic, intellectual, and political discussions.
Brown’s program called for converting the residence to meeting, classroom, study, library, and faculty offices for the Departments of French and Hispanic studies. R E Dinneen worked closely with the Sharpe family and the University to develop a design approach that would preserve this legacy and the structure’s fine interiors, while making significant program and building system upgrades. The downstairs living area was retained for public use. Historic elements were preserved. The scope of work includes creating handicapped accessible ramps by carefully matching existing materials, MEP/FP upgrades, new sprinkler system, updated restrooms, creating meeting areas and classrooms, subdividing rooms to create faculty offices, and creating graduate student office areas on the 3rd floor. R E Dinneen also worked closely with the Zoning Board to negotiate for less parking requirements, with the Historic Preservation Commission for a façade easement, and with the Handicapped Access Board, Fire Department and Building Department to obtain variances so that the building’s interior and exterior integrity could be maintained.