If this grand estate looks familiar to you, it is because it still stands on Eden Road, where it is now known as the Rocky Shores Manor. At the time of this photo, which was around 1910, the estate was called Widcombe-by-the-Sea and was the summer home of Francis Smith of San Antonio, Texas. Note the view of the Twin Lights in the background.
Smith bought the property — some 80,000 square feet of land — in 1909 from Arthur Lyman. The sale was reported in the Boston Evening Transcript on Oct. 2, 1909, where the item noted, “It is believed that Mr. Smith will erect a dwelling house on the property.” Some dwelling house!
Four years later, on June 30, 1913, the Boston Evening Transcript had this item:
Mrs. Francis Smith Routledge of San Antonio, Tex., is spending the summer at Rockport, Cape Ann, where Mr. and Mrs. Francis Smith, also of San Antonio, are at their summer cottage, “Widcombe-by-the-Sea,” for the season.
As for where Francis Smith got the money to build such a grand home, it appears he had been the head of a San Antonio investment firm. I found this reference which says that, in 1883, Smith and a partner founded the investment firm Francis Smith, Caldwell and Company. The firm acted “as a financial liaison between Texas farmers and ranchers seeking money to expand their land and agriculture operations, and British and Scottish financiers who had money to lend and were looking for greater returns on their investments than European markets could.” Later, Smith and his lawyer, Henry Patrick Drought, bought out his first partner’s interest in the firm and renamed it Francis Smith and Co. In 1900, Smith retired and the company was renamed H.P. Drought and Company.
This appears to be a real-photo postcard, suggesting Smith himself had it made.
Thank you a MILLION times over for finding this! WE HAVE never, ever seen the house from this perspective! Now we have a REALLY good history on the property because of you. We do have the original deeds and the like, but not this background story. We always knew Mr. Smith took a train to get to Rockport for the summertime.
In the basement, is a travel box with the name SMITH on it…I bet it’s still there, because it’s huge. The home always had really good vibes. One thing I do know is that the stairs were especially deep and short, it was reported that Mr. Smith had an elderly family member that needed extra short and long stairs to get up to her room safely.
I have shared this with former staff and my parents. This will be a real treat for them to see! Thank you so much!
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If you still have the original deed we would love to have it so that it remains with the house where it belongs. You are right about the house having a good vibe as we have thought many times of selling but always changed our minds. It’s like some strange force is keeping us here. Been here for 12 years and don’t see ever leaving. There was no box in the basement with Smiths name on it and very little was left behind for us but junk from the Coco’s who wouldn’t have been proper care takers of this wonderful home anyway. Now it is loved and cared for as it should be.
Keith and Chrissy Roberts
My husband, my mother and I as well as a family friend stayed at Rockport Inn in the mid 90’s. It was such an enchanting place I hope to visit there again someday. My mom passed away a few years ago but the memory of that trip and the fun we had together still make me smile.