Yacht Club revival continues, February completion targeted
On a damp and cloudy Columbus Day, the air onshore was full of the sounds of drills and hammers from workers rebuilding the Edgewood Yacht Club, all amid the quiet beginnings of the 6th Annual Columbus Day Regatta out on the water.
Building Chairman of Edgewood Yacht Club Wayne Kezirian was at the shoreline helping club members set up for the traditional Sunfish regatta, as well as view progress on reconstruction of the historic clubhouse destroyed by lightning during a blizzard in Jan. 2011. The new clubhouse will have some of the Victorian look of its predecessor but overall will be smaller.
“I had never heard of this before, but there is something called ‘thundersnow,’” says Kezirian, “and we believe it struck the wooden building and it burnt to the ground.”
Edgewood’s first building was built in 1889 and succumbed to fire in 1908. The clubhouse was quickly rebuilt and stood from 1908 to 2011. It survived the storm surges of the 1938 Hurricane and Hurricane Carol in 1954.
“This is a state-of-the-art building with sprinklers and following all of the most recent hurricane codes,” said Kezirian. “I was joking with my friends that if [the clubhouse] was finished, I’d be in there during the hurricanes.”
The building stands on steel piles above the water, with the first floor of the building 20 feet higher than mean high tide to adjust for storm surge and the waves. A deck extends outward from under the clubhouse to the docks beyond. The new clubhouse will be handicap accessible and far more affordable and efficient, said Kezirian.
When asked if the fire was a blessing in disguise, Kezirian said, “As much as we loved the old clubhouse, it was a 100-year-old wooden behemoth. The deferred maintenance and upkeep of that building was something I’m not sure the club could have afforded going forward.”
“What we have now is a state-of-the-art building that should allow us to maintain this structure going forward for another 100 years. With the last one, that wasn’t gonna happen.”
“This has been a really exciting project,” said Kezirian. “We’ve had a lot of help from Mayor [Allan] Fung of Cranston and especially Brown University and their sailing team.” Brown University had been sailing out of Edgewood since 1999. It continued operations after the fire from a trailer. “We couldn’t have done it without [them],” said Kezirian.
The yacht club portion of the project, is just over $2 million with around $400,000 in total donations between 2011-2016. The insurance settlement was $1,020,000. Brown University, which will occupy the top floor of the building, is contributing an additional $2.7 million, according to the yacht club website. The clubhouse is expected to be completed by next February, according to Kezirian.
Kezirian believes the fire has been an overall positive experience for Edgewood’s members.
“The fire was really remarkable. It broke down all the cliques and divisions in the group and really brought everyone together,” said Kezirian. “Our members have been very active socially in our events, more than before the fire.”
“It really changed the character of the club. [It’s] more informal and family-oriented now than before,” said Kezirian. “We lost members and gained members as a result of the fire. We lost a number of active members…who we hope will come back when the clubhouse is finished. But we also had a tremendous influx of new members from the neighborhood who just came to support the club.”
“We have, ballpark, around 175 members. Ninety voting members, and the rest are non-voting ‘dry sail’ members,” says Kezirian, “but the only way we’ll know if this is a ‘blessing in disguise’ or not is if the neighborhood supports us. We need to raise our membership by about 10 percent to be comfortable, but I’m sure we’ll reach that.”
Costs for “dry sail” membership are around $400 and full voting memberships are $900.
“For a couple hundred dollars, I don’t know why everybody in a one-mile radius doesn’t come down here,” says Kezirian, “and I think that will change when the clubhouse is built.”
“It’s a great place. You can come down during the weekends and sit on the dock. You can even grill on the dock too. It’s just a really nice place to spend a Friday or Saturday night. Everyone should come here.”