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IYRS gets $100K grant

School will use the money to expand its Newport facilities

The International Yacht Restoration School, a school and center for mari-time preservation based in historic Newport, has received a leadership gift for the restoration of the 1831 Aquidneck Mill Building. A grant of $100,000 from the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust (San Mateo, Calif.) will help IYRS target toward a 2005 start date on the project. The restoration of the Mill Building, a 30,000-square-foot structure on the school’s campus, will quadruple the school’s facilities.

The Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust has a long history of philanthro-pic involvement in Newport. Alletta Morris was one of the forces in the creation of The Preservation Society of Newport County, and left her 1860 family home “Chepstow” to the society as a living museum. Since its inception, the trust has been instrumental in the preservation of many historic buildings in Newport, as well as the preservation of open space on Aquidneck Island.

Newport resident Dominic Varisco spearheads IYRS’s Mill Building Restoration Committee, which includes Newporters Jan Slee, Pieter Roos and Lyn Comfort.

“This leadership grant is significant to the school for many reasons,” says IYRS president Terry Nathan. “If our fund-

raising efforts meet our projections, we hope to begin the building’s physical restoration before next summer. Also, we are fortunate to have a core group of supporters who believe passionately in our mission, but the generosity of the Alletta Morris Trust signals a shift — that IYRS is becoming recognized for its mission by a wider group of supporters.”

The Aquidneck Mill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was acquired by IYRS in 1995 in the hope of restoring the building for future school use. A growing demand for IYRS’s full-time program in classic yacht restoration has created more urgency to expand facilities: The current class size reflects a 35-percent increase over last year’s student body.

Working with Newport Collaborative Architects, the building will be open to the public, and include classroom and workshop space, a visitor’s center and display gallery, an assembly hall for lectures, library, retail shop and staff offices. The projected budget is $5.8 million. The physical restoration of the structure is slated to take two years.

Designing a new purpose for a mill building that has played a role in the history of Newport’s commercial waterfront was a prospect that attracted John Grosvenor, principal of Newport Collaborative Architects. That group served as the architect on the restoration of Perry Mill on Thames Street, the only other surviving mill in Newport that was transformed into retail and hotel space in 1981.

IYRS’s effort to find a new use for the Mill Building goes well beyond a pragmatic need for more space. According to Nathan, the restoration is part of the school’s mission to preserve Newport’s working waterfront, and integral to the values of preservation and restoration the school works to impart to its students.

Founded in 1993 IYRS offers a two-year accredited program for full-time students in classic yacht restoration and part-time courses in woodworking, systems installation, and boatbuilding and restoration. IYRS’s 2.5-acre waterfront campus on Thames Street includes the 1831 Mill Building and the 1905 Restoration Hall, a former electric generating plant that now serves as a workshop and gallery space. IYRS students have restored a fleet of some 75 classic vessels; the restoration of the 133-foot 1885 schooner yacht Coronet, the school’s flagship project, is currently under way. The school is open year-round to the public.