Pella Chronicle

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

July 5, 2013

Naval Air Station museum progresses

OTTUMWA — While the changes may not be evident, work on a museum dedicated to Ottumwa's former naval air station is still under way.

Stephen Black and Friends of NAS Ottumwa's board members have devoted countless hours to rehabilitating the former administration building. The roof was recently reshingled, and the next project will be to remove and rebuild the crumbling concrete steps leading up to the entryway's doors and windows, which also need to be replaced.

"And we continue to clean, which is our big project," Black said of the two-story, 23,000-square-foot building. "It doesn't have a lot of visibility and isn't going to for awhile."

The naval air base itself closed in 1947, though military was still active until the 1980s, when the administration building was used for urban assault training, scattering debris throughout the building and leaving holes in the walls and roof.

Since then, the building sat empty and fell into disrepair until Black and a crew of volunteers decided a couple years ago that it needed to be salvaged. Despite the damage and its ragged appearance, engineering consultants found that the building was structurally secure.

Today, Friends of NAS Ottumwa, a nonprofit organization, travels across the state to spread word of their mission to restore the building and convert it into a museum.

At this fall's Antique Airplane Association and Air Power Museum fly-in over Labor Day weekend, pilots will celebrate the "Diamond Jubilee," or 60th anniversary, of the AAA with a with a special air mail flight.

Temporary "air mail field stations" will be set up at the antique airfield and Ottumwa and Oskaloosa airports, where pilots will fly in with souvenir postal covers.

"Some of the aircraft originally stationed here will be back for the event," Black said.

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