A little over two years ago, mega pop star, Taylor Swift purchased a mansion in Westerly, Rhode Island for nearly eighteen million dollars. At the time, Westerly residents were thrilled that their new neighbor was going to be one of the biggest celebrities of the century, and welcomed her with open arms.
The home Taylor purchased, located in the Watch Hill village of Westerly, sits on a popular public beach that Westerly residents have been enjoying for generations. Swift’s new residence was previously known as the Holiday House, or simply, the Harkness House by locals. Named after the previous owner, Rebekah Harkness, heir of Standard Oil, the house has been cherished by the citizens of Westerly since it was built in 1931.
After less than 6 months of being a Westerly resident, however, rumors among Westerly residents began swirling that their beloved new neighbor, Swift, was planning on changing the beloved landscape of their cherished Watch Hill beach.
Swift ordered construction of a seal wall around her estate, which prevents locals from fishing, swimming, and surfing in the place that has been their favorite area for such activities.
No one was more upset than Watch Hill resident Shane Daly. Daly, along with many other residents, was outraged that a celebrity could move in to town, and change the landscape that has been a part of his town for generations.
“The majority of my summer days were spent in that area of the beach that is no longer assessable to us now that Ms. Swift has built her sea wall”, says Daly. “Since I was a little boy, I have been visiting that beach to enjoy quality time with family and friends. My father taught me to swim there, I learned to surf there, and I taught my boy how to fish there.”
Daly is certainly not alone with his anger towards the 25-year-old pop star. In addition to the beach area being inaccessible to the public now, neighbors in the Watch Hill area are irate about the sea wall, and accompanying fence being an eye sore.
“The entire landscape has changed, and will never be the same, my father would roll over in his grave if he could see this new addition to his backyard”, says a neighbor of Swift, who preferred to not be mentioned by name in this article.
When asked about whether or not Swift has the required permits to build the sea wall, Laura Dwyer, spokesperson from RI Coastal Resources Management Control said, “Swift did not need a permit to build the wall. Everything is on level, and they haven’t done anything wrong.”
Despite the sea wall, Daly admits that Swift is not all bad for his hometown.
“She seems to be a wonderful young lady, and has been perfectly gracious with us locals. She brings in tourists who drive in for the day just to catch a glimpse of her house, and she is always shopping in the area’s stores, and supporting local businesses. All us residents want are answers as to what the exact regulations are for beachfront owners. We have heard many times that Swift has followed all necessary measures to be allowed to build the wall, but we just do not have any proof that she did not receive any special treatment because she is a celebrity. We just want to all have the same rights, and the same guidelines, celebrity or not.”
If you are in the Westerly, RI area, and want to check out the Swift mansion, or head to the public beach to check out the sea wall for yourself, head to 16 Bluff Avenue, Watch Hill, RI.