Diocese Sells Newport Property for $4.3 Million

By Gina Macris
Providence Journal
November 30, 2007

NEWPORT — A total of 13.5 acres of prime real estate at 90 Brenton Rd., the home of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny since the early 1950s, has been sold by the Diocese of Providence for $4.3 million to a corporation linked to the family of Campbell's Soup heiress Dorrance H. Hamilton.

A diocesan spokeswoman said that the sale price — $4,337,500, according to land evidence records — exceeded the asking price by $387,500 "after negotiations with the parties involved." The spokeswoman, Karen Davis, did not elaborate.

The diocese sold the property, the former Arthur Curtiss James estate, to help reduce debt partly related to the $14.2-million settlement of the clergy sexual-abuse case.

A deed restriction requires the property to be used only for residential purposes.

Situated in an exclusive area near Ocean Drive, the acreage is zoned for house lots with a minimum size of four acres.

There are now only two structures on the property, including a modern two-story brick building, with a flat roof, which has 10,516 feet of space. The other building to the rear is an older one of just 567 square feet. The buildings are assessed by the city at $850,000 and the land is assessed at $2.5 million, for a total value of $3.3 million.

If owners of the property ever plan to convey any of it to purchasers outside the extended family of S. Matthews V. Hamilton Jr., the diocese would first have the right to buy the land back, according to a provision of the deed.

S. Matthews V. Hamilton Jr. is a son of Dorrance H. "Dodo" Hamilton. He is a descendant of John T. Dorrance, the inventor of condensed soup, and Samuel M. Vauclain, who advanced modern locomotive design in the 1920s as head of Baldwin Locomotive.

Matthews Hamilton and his brother, N. Peter Hamilton, were pictured with their mother in a publication of Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia, when Dodo Hamilton gave $25 million to Jefferson Medical College a couple of years ago.

The owner of record of the property at 90 Brenton Rd. is listed as Table Rock LLC, which has the same principal address on Philadelphia's Main Line as two other corporations established by Dodo Hamilton.

One of the corporations runs Hamilton's SVF Foundation, a farm on nearby Harrison Avenue, which endeavors to ensure the future viability of endangered breeds of livestock.

The other company has developed a new marina and grille on the site of the former Christie's restaurant.

Meanwhile, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, who had rented from the diocese, have purchased a house in Middletown. The order found the cost of keeping up the convent to be burdensome, particularly in light of declining membership, according to the order's provincial, Sister Joan Van der Zyden.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny School, on eight acres across the street from the convent, is not affected by the sale. Although the staff and administration is almost all lay people, two sisters still work at the school and three serve on its board of trustees, according to Van der Zyden.



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