Newport Celebrates Opening of Mill

Medium-sized image unavailable for this photo.
The Aquidneck Mill building was a steam-powered cotton
manufacturing company.

Credit: Jay Picotte, International Yacht Restoration School

One of Newport's two remaining 19th-century mills will officially open tomorrow as offices and classrooms.

The National Register-listed Aquidneck Mill building actually reopened last winter. Seven of its 10 tenants are maritime-industry businesses.

"It's really a unique environment," says Terry Nathan, president of the International Yacht Restoration School, founded in 1993 and located on a marina filled with historic boats. "We're broadening the experience for students and tourists to really see a maritime-related industry. You could almost describe it as its own sort of cultural biosphere."

The International Yacht Restoration School bought the mill complex, which stands on a 2.5-acre waterfront lot, in 1993. Workers immediately started restoring a former 1903 electric power plant, now known as Restoration Hall, on the property. In September 2007, they turned their attention to mill building. "It is quite a bit larger and more complex [than Restoration Hall]," Nathan says, and the project was "significantly more expensive."

It took a year and a half and $7.5 million to renovate the 30,000-square-foot structure, portions of which are made of green granite blocks.

Newport tourists can stop by the mill's visitors center to browse exhibits, then climb aboard a water taxi and cross the harbor to see the Museum of Yachting, which merged with the school in 2007.

The International Yacht School has 32 students enrolled in its two-year yacht-restoration program. (At its other location in Bristol, R.I., students can learn about boats' mechanical systems.) In Newport, students are working to restore several historic boats, including a tender that belonged to J.P. Morgan.

Says Nathan: "We're not only helping people acquire these skills, but as a byproduct we're also restoring important boats and getting them back on the water for everyone to enjoy."


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