EAA Chapter 54

St. Paul, MN. (Lake Elmo)

Chapter House improvements

Renovation of Chapter 54's Home Completed

Before and after of the main meeting area

(Dec 20) - After about a month of work, this phase of the renovation of the Chapter 54 house has been completed.  The effort involved repainting the walls and reimagining the space to make it more comfortable and welcoming.  It's also to move us forward as a chapter, thinking about who we are and where we're going. The history of the chapter is certainly properly preserved and acknowledged -- possibly more so -- while allowing us to use the space to declare who we are now.

The changes were guided by a visit to the space in 2022 by Robyn Stoller's sister, an interior designer. While we didn't comply with all of her recommendations, they guided the process.

Here's a tour:

The Chapter 54 entrance features an exhibit of chapter history and present focus

The entrance, which previously featured '80s-era faux painting has been redesigned as an evolving exhibit to explain to visitors what EAA Chapter 54 is about as well as some of its history. Many of the items that previously were on the south wall have been moved to this location. The "exhibit" features a prominent nod to the chapter's founders as well as tip of the hat to Al Kupferschmidt, surrounded by a display of what the chapter is now. Next to the doorway leading to the meeting area is a tribute to individuals who helped make the chapter house possible.

A tribute to the people who helped create the chapter house

Inside the meeting area, the desk, bookcase and plastic brochure holders have been removed and two new accent chairs have been added by the west wall, constituting a "conversation area".  The pictures of member airplanes have been moved from the north wall to the west wall and has been thinned out to include only active current members of the chapter. An effort is underway to include more pictures of aircraft owned or flown by current members.

Before and after of the west wall

The north wall features two paintings by the late Don Carlson. These are on loan from the collection of Dana Anderson. A picture of Don and an artist biography will be added later. The goal here was to bring more color and less clutter to the wall.

West wall with two Don Carlson paintings

Matching blackout curtains have been added to all windows to soften the room, cut the draftiness, and also eliminate glare on the large monitor during summertime meetings when the sun is still up.

The east wall is mostly unchanged with the exception of the removal of unused shelves and an unused cabinet. The wall space is currently untouched but the plan is to add some aviation art, whose hooks could subsequently be used to hang a dry-ink board on occasions (ground school?) when one is needed.

This extra space here allows one table to be placed there for members who bring food into the space. The number of tables has been reduced from three to two and the number of seats at each table has also been reduced to two.

This is done because of the addition of 32 fabric, cushioned chairs to the space to replace the 32 folding chairs. The chairs are much wider than the folding chairs (because we are getting much wider) and requires more space. But the additional comfort is undeniable. For now, anyway, the old, padded chairs will remain along the north and south wall although their number has also been reduced.

Thirty two fabric padded chairs have been added

There is no change to the desk area with the exception of the removal of shelves in the corner, the curtains on the window, and the organizing of the audiovisual rack. It's unclear how useful that rack is, particularly with the earlier addition of the sound bar under the large monitor.  It functions primarily for radio, cassettes (cassettes?) and CD playing as well as a public address amplifier. Eventually, it's hoped the current wiring can be replaced with quick-connects to allow the rack to be moved to the storage area, with quick installation ability on occasions when it's needed. The large Fokker model, which previously hung on the north wall, has been moved to the south/east wall corner where it won't hurt anybody when it inevitably falls.

File cabinets in the space will eventually be moved to the storage area in the kitchen.

Many of the items that were hanging on the south wall have been moved to be part of the more-visible exhibit in the entrance. Dated and faded items have been permanently removed including old EAA posters and the photographs of the 2000 storm as well as a 2010 Air Academy collage. The search is on for more general aviation artwork. An addition is a 2' x 3' print of the August 2019 Sport Aviation cover, which much better captures the spirit of general aviation and EAA then the emphasis on warbirds, which continue to dominate the models hanging overhead.

Before and after of the south wall

The vision for the south wall is somewhat hampered by the two rarely-used air conditioners that dominate wall. The primary use of the blackout curtains on the south well is to minimize the leaky single-pane window in winter.

The area behind the seating area is now a socializing and mixing area before and after meetings. We are out of the book library business for a couple of reasons. First, we needed the space. But, more importantly, the books were of little interest to members and did not circulate. The invitation last summer to take books did not meet much of a response. Generally, the chapter has too often become a place for "donations" whenever a hangar is cleaned or a home is swept clear. We just don't have that kind of space, particularly since books can be found at a library or online if needed. Additionally, the old books absorbed the odor and mildew of the space and created that "old" smell that was so noticeable to visitors. That's not the image we want to project.

We have retained some of the "coffee table" books which will be occasionally rotated through the meeting area tables for people to leaf through. 
What could go in this area?

So what goes in that space? Until spring, the desk has been moved there and some of the folding chairs have been stored there. But the space provides an opportunity for visioning new uses. With the addition of Internet connectivity, it could be a flight and weather planning area. It could host a flight simulator "pit", which would allow CFI members to coach other pilots, or allow the chapter house to play a bigger role on Young Eagles rally days. It's up to the membership to decide.

Finally (most of) the hanging models have been dusted and the carpet has been shampooed. 

The next phase of the reimagining of our space will be cleaning up the kitchen area. A proposal will eventually reach the board of directors to replace the carpeting with vinyl planking or Pergo.  The walls will be painted (different color). An office will be created at the north end of the space for officers and others who want to do some chapter work. The file cabinets will be moved accordingly and organized to be more useful and efficient. The kitchen area cabinets will similarly be organized.  

The shelf area is already being cleaned out. "Donations" that were received over the last year have been thrown out. The storage area downstairs will be cleaned out next summer and the large, round tables will be stored further back in the space, allowing easier access to other furniture and BBQ grill. An old lawnmower, vacuum cleaner, and card tables have been removed.

Over time, the intent is to slowly replace the fluorescent light bulbs, remove the ballast, rewire the fixtures and use LED T8 tubes, which will use less energy and won't require a warm-up period in cold weather. The cost is negligible.

In the spring, we'll install baseboard trim along the entirety of the meeting area, painted with a "cool ice" gray color. That's the color of the entryway door frame to the meeting area which had been brown.

We could not ascertain in talking to long-time members what paint was used on the building's front door, so to confirm it was oil-based, it was covered with a latex paint. As expected, it's flaking off. In the spring it will be stripped and painted with an oil-based paint.

Over the winter, the benches from the observation area will be repainted and returned in the spring. We have the same problem here w.r.t. type of paint/stain used.  The pergola and the benches need to be repainted, but we have no information on what was originally used. So we'll probably have to go with an oil-based stain, which, of course, is no fun.

Early next summer, some of the landscape rocks around the chapter house exterior will be replaced by "pollinator-friendly" perennials (now there's a donation we can use: perennials you've divided and a few bags of garden soil).  

And, finally, the deck will be sanded and restained/painted.  The deck is quickly reaching the end of its useful life and will need to soon be rebuilt.

Bob Collins
Facilities Director
EAA Chapter 54

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