When in Newport, make it a point to visit the International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS). The school is open to the public (there's a donation box near the entrance if you're so inclined) and offers an impressive walk-through, whether you're interested in boats or not.
The building itself is beautiful, open-aired and filled with sunlight. The wooden boats that line the floor and hang from the ceiling are pristine, no matter what restoration stage they're in. You immediately appreciate the oft lost skill of working with one's hands, of building and restoring something with strength and elbow grease.
In my opinion, the best-kept secret of IYRS is the restoration of Coronet, a 131-foot schooner yacht that first launched in 1885. According to the IYRS site, she featured a "marble staircase, stained glass doors, mahogany paneled staterooms, and a piano in the main salon." The yacht served as an absolute representation of the Gilded Age until it was purchased in 1905 by the non-denominational religious organization The Kingdom to be used for missionary work. For a fuller read on the Coronet's colorful history, click here.
IYRS has been restoring the Coronet since 1995. It's been one of my favorite projects to follow since I was a girl, when we spent weekends and summers in Newport, to now, when I return to the island once a year. The progress has been slow, careful, and astounding. It's a superb thing to see. And, being the romantic that I am, I'm always given pause by the articles from the ship that line the walkway. Take a look at the piano, the chairs, the anchors, the shackles, the everything that made this schooner beautiful in her heyday.
The International Yacht Restoration School provides a unique and awe-inspiring glance into an entirely different world. Below are pictures from our last visit to the school, but they hardly do it justice. Go yourself and see the students work on their boats, the history buried in the bones of the Coronet, and the peaceful walkway along the water behind it all. The IYRS Newport campus is located at 449 Thames Street.