By JOHN HOWELL -- Like the mythical Phoenix that rose from the ashes to fly, Edgewood Yacht Club has risen to stand again in the wake of a 2011 winter storm fire.
Like the mythical Phoenix that rose from the ashes to fly, Edgewood Yacht Club has risen to stand again in the wake of a 2011 winter storm fire that left the Victorian-era building that had survived the worst of hurricanes a smoldering mass on top of charred pilings.
The resurrection of the clubhouse has been an arduous process of permitting and fundraising, followed by seemingly endless months of pile driving to meet the demanding height requirements of the structure – not to mention ADA and fire code regulations.
But the clubhouse is no longer a dream and, while walls have yet to be built, an elevator must still be installed and floors remain to be finished, the club is booking events with the first “Sunday Sailing” banquet set for April 29.
“It’s like getting a new car,” says building committee chair and past commodore Wayne Kezirian as he conducts a recent tour.
The first floor at the level of the yacht club pier will be largely left open. Kezirian sees it being used by the sailing school and as a gathering place before people head out to the docks. The second floor will serve as the heart of club activities. It offers a wraparound porch with a clear view south to Conimicut Light and the distant bay islands. Kezirian imagines deck chairs lining the porch and perhaps an outdoor heater to take the bite out of the spring or fall air. The north side of the clubhouse looks out on Fields Point and the City of Providence.
Inside is a spacious meeting area that will soon house a mahogany bar complete with brass rail that assistant treasurer Ken Gilbert found in a Newport antique store. No one seems to know the origin of the bar or its age, but it is thought to have come from Boston.
“It came from Cheers; we’ll start that rumor,” said Gilbert with a laugh.
There will be shelving and cases for the display of sailing trophies, and Kezirian sees burgees from other clubs hanging from the walls. In one corner with a view of the docks he plans “a Starbucks-style sitting area” with comfortable chairs and small tables.
The second floor also has a small kitchen that will be used for the preparation of sandwiches and light meals. Large events will be catered, said Kezirian. The club’s administrative offices that are currently in the cottage that has been used as a clubhouse since the fire will remain in the cottage. The cottage also offers meeting space that will be used for activities.
Kezirian guides the tour through the studs that will eventually become a wall.
“To the left is Brown; the right is the club,” he says.
He leads the way upstairs to the third floor that will be occupied by the Brown University sailing club. The view is even more spectacular from the Brown loft.
Brown is underwriting about $2.5 million of the $4 million it is taking to rebuild the clubhouse. The club’s share of the cost is coming through insurance claims and fundraising.
“We’re close to our goal,” Kezirian says of the fundraising campaign.
But there’s more to a new home in a familiar setting. With the facility, the club will be able to offer more. Kezirian is hopeful of a growth in membership, which now stands at 170, while maintaining an affordable way to enjoy the water. Full membership is $1,000 and there are a limited number of social memberships at $500.
Kezirian is ready to toast the club’s future from the “Cheers” bar. The rumor has roots.