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Star of the Sea/Harbor House Materials, Ade Bethune Papers

Identifier: ABC-14-SOS


The collection contains information about the Star of the Sea Corporation and development of the Harbor House project. These materials cover the incorporation of Star of the Sea as a non-profit entity including corporate changes, as well as fundraising activities, and design and development of Harbor House. Materials related to the purchase, design, and renovation of the Auchincloss Estate/Cenacle-by-the-Sea Convent are also included in the collection.

It contains business and administrative records, correspondence, catalogs, publicity materials, and architectural plans and drawings. Materials span the years between 1985 and 2002, with the bulk of the collection from 1991-2001.


  • 1985 - 2002
  • Majority of material found within 1991 - 2002


About Ade Bethune

Marie Adélaïde de Bethune (1914-2002), known as Ade Bethune, was born in Brussels, Belgium. Bethune’s mother was a major influence throughout her life. Ade Bethune’s Catholic faith, political activism, and her interest in helping others, especially children and the elderly, were all shaped by her mother. The family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York in 1928. Bethune attended Cathedral High School in New York and later the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union. Her early years as a young artist in New York were spent with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, and her designs of Biblical scenes and common, working class individuals were often published in the Catholic Worker. This early work launched a life-long career in liturgical art and architecture. Ade Bethune’s artistic gifts and desire to serve others would form a life of creativity and social service rooted in the Catholic faith.

Bethune moved to Newport, Rhode Island in 1938. She purchased her first home there in 1940 and a larger home in 1953. Homeownership fulfilled her need for being a part of society in community, with shared respect and responsibility. Bethune wanted others to realize that ideal as well. With this philosophy, she and a group of concerned citizens created Church Community Corporation in 1969 (later the Church Community Housing Corporation or CCHC). The CCHC, through renovation or new construction of single and multi-family residences, was responsible for more than 30 low-income Newport County families finding new homes.

In the late 1980s Ade Bethune identified a new housing need in Newport. Caring for her aging parents had awakened her to the need for elder housing that encouraged independence yet recognized the need for community. Bethune founded Star of the Sea in 1991 with key members of the CCHC with the mission to develop Harbor House as the embodiment of that vision. Bethune’s mission was fulfilled and she was one of the first tenants when Harbor House opened February 4, 2002. Ade Bethune died shortly thereafter on May 1, 2002.

About Star of the Sea / Harbor House

Church Community Housing Corporation (CCHC) was successful in providing new or renovated housing to low income individuals, families and seniors in the Newport, RI area. Beginning in the late 1980’s Ade Bethune began to explore the option of developing an "intentional community" for active seniors. A large plat of land with buildings suffering from “deferred maintenance” at Washington and Battery Streets in Newport seemed an ideal location for such a project.

In the 1840s the property had been purchased by John Auchincloss, a New York businessman, who built a summer home for his family overlooking the sea. In 1907 the Auchincloss Estate and two other parcels were joined and deeded to the St. Regis Corporation of France and New York. At this time, the property included the estate house, barn, carriage house, and other buildings. The St. Regis Corporation, or the Religious of the Cenacle, established a small convent and retreat center there. In 1914 the Cenacle undertook a building project adding the St. Francis Guest House, Nuns’ Annex, the Cenacle Chapel, and Chaplain’s Cottage to the property. The Corpus Christi Carmel Sisters from Trinidad purchased the property from St. Regis in 1955 and also used the sprawling site as an educational retreat center. After several years the property was abandoned to the City of Newport, who in 1986 designated it as John Martins Park. In 1996 the property was purchased by Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation.

Ade Bethune and several board members from CCHC incorporated as a non-profit named Star of the Sea in 1991, with the goal of developing Bethune's intentional community. The Cenacle property was for sale from 1989 until it was purchased by Rhode Island Housing Mortgage and Finance Corporation in 1996. Although there were a few parties interested in purchasing the site during this time, it was not suitable for many projects. With the property sitting idle, Star of the Sea with Ade Bethune as President first developed a cooperative building plan, but was unable to secure a mortgage for the project. A rental concept was then pursued by the board and for a few years the addition of assisted living services was considered. The assisted living plan was eventually dropped and the project moved forward as a rental property. Funds from loans, grants, and personal donations were obtained in order to purchase the land and renovate the existing buildings including the chapel.

During this lengthy fundraising and development phase, Bethune and the board members registered the property, chapel, and other buildings as national historic sites. They also needed to gain zoning and project plan approval from the city of Newport, RI and gain support from neighbors and the community for the Harbor House project. Bethune worked closely with Newport Collaborative Architects, Inc. and Mike Abbott, the lead architect on the project, to design a senior housing community that preserved the heritage of the Auchincloss estate and Cenacle-by-the-Sea convent and retreat center, yet provided a safe and secure home for seniors.

Construction began almost ten years after Star of the Sea incorporated. During this time the project went by several names including: Washington House, Cenacle-by-the-Sea, Stella Maris, and Harbor House. The legal entity behind the project also changed to accommodate new investors and corporate changes, but Ade Bethune remained a key part of the project until its completion. Harbor House opened as a senior housing community in February 2002.


8.3 Linear Feet (17 boxes) plus 5.25 cubic feet of oversized materials (2 flat file drawers and 19 sets of rolled architectural drawings)

Language of Materials



This collection contains materials relating to Star of the Sea, a non-profit corporation founded by Ade Bethune to manage a project building a cooperative living community for the elder called Harbor House. The collection consists of business documents, pamphlets, newspapers, publications, correspondence and flat and rolled architectural drawings and plans.


The collection is organized into two groupings: Star of the Sea Non-profit Corporation and Harbor House Project Development. Each of these has been arranged into several series and subseries.

Missing Title

  1. Series 1: Administration (includes 6 subseries)
  2. Series 2: Correspondence
  3. Series 3: Finances (includes 7 subseries)
  4. Series 4: Public Relations
  5. Series 5: Background

Missing Title

  1. Series 6: Site History
  2. Series 7: Design and Construction (includes 2 subseries)
  3. Series 8: Architectural Drawings

Many materials in this collection were in a disorganized state upon Ade Bethune's death, therefore the bulk of the arrangement was imposed at the time of processing.

Folders created and maintained by Bethune have been placed in alphabetical or chronological order within an appropriate series and subseries. Loose materials were grouped in file folders before being placed in a series or subseries, and given a folder name that best represents the content of the items within the context of the rest of the collection.


Ade Bethune donated her collection of personal and business papers, sketches, artwork, books, and artifacts to the College of St Catherine (now St. Catherine University) over a period of time from 1984-2002.

Related Materials:

For more about the Church Community Housing Corporation, see the Guide to Church Community Housing Corporation Records in the Ade Bethune Papers.

Processing Information

The collection was processed and the finding aid written by Melissa A. Smith, March 2010-November 2010.


Guide to the Star of the Sea/Harbor House Materials in the Ade Bethune Papers
Under Revision
Melissa A. Smith, MLIS Graduate Student
November, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Processing of the collection and production of this finding aid made possible by a CLIR "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" grant with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the St. Catherine University Special Collections Repository

St. Catherine University
Archives and Special Collections
2004 Randolph Avenue
St. Paul MN 55105 U.S.A.