Kraus-Anderson’s recently-completed office headquarters is awash in what’s new: New energy-efficient systems, a new training center, high-tech conference rooms, on-trend employee amenities, sleek new furnishings and lots of shiny new surfaces. Yet here and there, the historic character of the 120-year old company is also proudly on display.
Third Floor: Historic Job site signage, circa 1950’s
KA’s new address is also a very old address: Kraus-Anderson has officed on Eighth Street between Park and Portland avenues since the first KA headquarters building was erected at 501 South Eighth Street in the 1940’s. On the third floor of the new building, directly above the front door, visitors can see a hand-painted, well-used wooden job site sign dating back to the mid-1950’s and sporting KA’s old, and new, address. KA Historian Jan Goebel and KA Archivist Matt Goff have been keeping the artifact safely stored away for display, a standout among the thousands of records and research materials that are documented and logged by the KA History Department.
First Floor: Clutched from the “Jaws of Death!”
Tucked between the KA University training center and the KAfé (KA’s lunchroom), the KA history wall documents milestones in the history of KA dating back to 1897. But nearby hangs a genuine artifact: the KA shield sign from the exterior of the previous KA headquarters that stood on the site of the new building.
Project coordinators Emily Hals-Laux and Jillian Sidler were checking out the demolition as “sidewalk superintendents” on the day the sign came down along with the front wall. “When we saw the ‘jaws of death’ come down on the shield wall, we practically scaled the fence to get the operator to stop and attempt to salvage the sign… That’s why there is a big “bite” out of the corner,” Sidler recalled. “Emily and I then carried the shield across the street to the site office. It’s as heavy as it looks.”
A few steps down the corridor from the lobby’s technology wall is the Founder’s room, another feature inspired by the past. The meeting room is furnished with a table and credenza repurposed from the custom-made black walnut desk of Lloyd Engelsma, who joined Kraus-Anderson as an estimator during the Great Depression and bought the firm a few years later, building the business into one of the nation’s leading construction management enterprises.
A team of KAers took up the challenge of removing the existing desk from Dan Engelsma’s office. General Superintendent Rick Lund and Carpenter Foreman Scott Kolb disassembled the desk, discovering that “it had been moved a few times in its lifespan, pieces were added to the desk that were not necessarily a match to the original, a few joints were reinforced (glued) at some point, and it was beastly heavy!” remembers Lund. cutting it down and repurposing it into something all visitors to the building could use.
A Carpentry Challenge
Retiree Bill Sieberer and apprentice carpenter Regie Patnode took on the carpentry challenges, including:
- The age of the desk. “The black walnut was in good shape, but dry, so removing pieces and re-installing them was a lot tougher than we thought; but Bill had enough salvageable pieces to make the table work,” said Lund.
- The stain did not match. “You will notice this mostly in the credenza, two drawers are from a newer section of the desk and are redder than the dark brown of the original and the grain is going the opposite direction,” Lund said. “We decided it added a story to repurposed furniture and let the stain differences alone.”
Technology accommodations. “We had to remove the center drawers to create an open area for computer equipment,” said Lund. “The doors were taken from the main desk portion, we reused five drawers from Lloyd’s back counter and two drawers from the front desk (which were slightly off color from the rest.) Bill also had to narrow the credenza to 18″ which meant we had to shrink or cut down all the drawers to 17″ installing new, shorter, drawer slides. The base on a cabinet usually is a 1″ x 4″ kick plate but not here! Here we have three u-shaped, 2″ x 2″ feet that dowel back into the cabinet so you can see all the way under the credenza. You may or may not see the difference, but it is unique.”
- The 3′ x 5′ table was made from the original desk top 1 1/2″ thick top with a 1″ x 4″ face, “Kind of like a door on its side with solid 1 x 4 trim,” said Lund. “Did I mention it was heavy? We needed clear access to the middle of the table top to install a 7″ x 8” flip top access panel. The top has full depth draw that would interfere with the wiring access but really couldn’t be removed because it couldn’t be neatly patched. So Bill channeled his inner Macgyver and re-built the drawer about 2″ deep then fixed it shut so it would look like a drawer without being functional!”
- Lund explained, “the two legs of the table were made from the additional tops on the counter of Lloyd’s desk. This presented a problem as this only gave us one finished side! We were able to find some black walnut trim pieces and 1/4″ black walnut plywood to finish out the exposed sides of the legs. The mid-rail is the original cut down to accommodate IT access. We needed to remove the metal splines that were routed into the rail, cut the piece to fit then re-install the splines. Sounds easy, but very time consuming. Later in the week, we sanded and stained the new wood, then brought it to our new office to let our painters at the KA office refinish the poly sealant.”
“Now Lloyd’s desk is serving a new generation at the company his hands so carefully crafted,” said Lund.