RHINEBECK, N.Y. — With a goal of breaking ground in November, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome volunteers are hustling to raise funds for a new $150,000 Visitor Center. Plans are now complete for the gift shop, model museum and modern restrooms in one building.
The biggest challenge is the deadline, Dec. 31, 2014. That’s the date set for a $20,000 challenge grant from the Thomas Thompson Trust, which requires $130,000 to be collected by year’s end to receive the donation. A contribution of $50,000 from The Frost Memorial Trust launched the design phase, and new pledges of materials, expertise and cash will ensure the building opens next May in time for the 2015 museum season, officials note.
Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum Trustee H. Knick Staley kickstarted early fundraising, which moved the project from an often discussed need to July’s construction design by Rhinebeck architect Warren Temple Smith. The Mid-Hudson Radio-Control Society and Balsa U.S.A., a model airplane kit manufacturing company based in Marinette, Wis., also provided donations to get the project in motion.
“The Aerodrome has needed this improvement for a long time,” says Michael DiGiacomio, the museum’s board president. “We need to show our visitors that we appreciate their patronage and we want to take that extra step to make them feel more comfortable while they are here. We are certain that this improvement will make the Aerodrome more visitor friendly and that the improvement will help improve attendance.”
The new Visitor Center will be built on the footprint of the existing airfield gift shop, which shows wear from hundreds of thousands of visitors since it went up in the early 1970s. It will be knocked down when the airshows end in mid-October so site work can begin before winter.
DiGiacomio says, “It is vital that we reach our fundraising goal to complete the project as we will be committing ourselves to building the new structure once we knock down the existing one.”
“The old building needs repairs that would not be cost-effective to make, so a new structure that will incorporate modern restrooms, the model museum and the gift shop is the most logical choice that we could make,” adds Museum Trustee Warren Batson. “We are very pleased to have the aid of talented professionals in the planning of this building including Warren Temple Smith, Gordon Cruikshank, Sean Crimmins, Philip Monteleoni and Rod Morrison, who have all given generously of their time.”
One historic element of the Aerodrome will disappear — the parade of privies. Starting with the wooden farm outhouse in 1958, airfield visitors have enjoyed an evolution of bucket booths, plastic porta-potties and flusher trailers.
“The portable lavatories we have on site served their purpose and are kept as clean as possible, but they remain the biggest item that our visitors complain about,” says DiGiacomio. “We do have two fully functional public restrooms in our main museum building, but those are not located near the flightline, where the airshow takes place.”
Fundraising efforts begin with a dinner set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, during the Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society’s RC Jamboree weekend. Tickets are $30 each for a classic outdoor grill menu. Because seating is limited, reservations are recommended by Aug. 31.
This year the Mid-Hudson R/C Society will be celebrating its 48th annual meet at Old Rhinebeck, and it remains a popular weekend with visitors, who get to witness two days of radio-control model flying in addition to the full-scale airshows.
The dinner fundraising event will include a live auction, a silent auction and a film or slideshow featuring the Aerodrome’s history and current projects.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome’s museum and grounds are open daily through Oct. 26, and airshows take place every weekend through Oct. 16.
The museum features more than 60 antique airplanes, vintage automobiles and related artifacts to view and learn about, dating from 1900 through 1940. The Pioneer, World War I and Barnstorming periods of aviation history are all well represented. Biplane rides will be available during the show season. Shows and rides are weather permitting.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Airshows and Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum are 501(c) 3, non-profit organizations, and donations are tax-deductible. Memberships are available.